The Media Development Centre (MDC), under the auspices of the USAID Programme for Strengthening of Independent Media in the Republic of Macedonia and the Project for Media Legal Reform and Responsible Media, in the period February 2013-December 2014, conducted a constant monitoring of the defamation action cases tried in accordance with the Law on Civil Liability for Defamation at the Basic Court Skopje 2 in Skopje.
The adoption of the Law on Civil Liability for Defamation in November 2012-та concluded the process of decriminalisation of defamation and its transfer from criminal to civil courts. The media and expert community praised the decriminalisation of defamation. However, they did note that the Law has many weaknesses that could have negative effect on the freedom of expression and push the journalists in the direction of self-censorship. In 2012-та, MDC prepared the “Analysis of the Draft-Law on Civil Liability for Defamation” in which we listed a number of weaknesses we identified in the proposed bill. After the adoption of the Law, together with the organisations gathered in the coalition Front for Freedom of Expression, MDC submitted an Initiative to the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Macedonia, in April 2013-та, to initiate a procedure to determine the constitutionality of certain provisions of the Law. The Constitutional Court has taken the initiative into consideration to this day, almost 20 months after it was submitted.
Having in mind the importance of the Law for the freedom of expression and media freedoms in the Republic of Macedonia, and the uncertainties surrounding the effects of its implementation, the Media Development Center implements a continuous monitoring of defamation action trials in which journalists, editors and media outlets appear as defendants. In addition, MDC follows the defamation action cases in which state officials appear as plaintiffs.
In addition to the direct monitoring of the cases through physical presence of our observers in the hearings, MDC maintains constant communication with the Court of Appeals and has monitored the appeals procedures on the decisions of the Basic Court.
The monitoring focuses primarily on the implementation of the Law on Civil Liability for Defamation, the conduct and actions of the judges in the implementation of material and process law in trials, the implementation of the case law of the European Court of Human Rights, the European Convention on Human Rights and the other international documents and principles in the area of protection of freedom of expression, and the work of the court clerk.
The defamation action trials are heard by three judges at the Basic Court Skopje 2: Jovanka Spirovska Paneva, Vesna Kalkovska and Nuhi Rustemi. At the Skopje Court of Appeals, the appeals are reviewed by a council composed of Judge Lidija Dimčevska, the President of the Court, and judges Stanka Zafirova and Enver Bexheti.
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