The compensations awarded to the Head of the Administration for Security and Counter-Intelligence in the defamation lawsuit filed against the Editor-in-Chief and the journalist of “Fokus” weekly newsmagazine, and the defamation lawsuit against the news-site “Mojot grad”, confirm the fears of the Media Development Centre that the Law on Civil Liability for Defamation could and would be abused to silence the critical media and journalists in the country.
The last two cases show that Macedonia builds case-law that is in collision with the European Court of Human Rights’ case-law and the international principles for protection of freedom of expression related to the issue of protection of reputation.
MDC stands on the position that the journalists and the media should not be held liable for reporting or reproducing “words of others”, especially in cases when disputed statements are made in a discussion on a matter of public interest, knowing that such reporting and reproduction are a fundamental practice of professional journalism.
Also, the courts should not neglect the fact that holders of public offices should be subject to public criticism that greatly exceeds the protections allowed for private citizens. According to international principles, public institutions, including local self-governments, should be “prohibited altogether from bringing defamation actions”. That is especially true in cases when journalists published facts referring to matters of public interest and acted in accordance with the professional standards of the journalistic profession.
We find the compensations awarded in the case of “Fokus” weekly’s journalists to be inappropriately high, so as to represent a de facto pressure on the journalists and further threaten the freedom of media and freedom of expression.
Finally, we appeal to the courts to implement the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights, to deliberate and decide independently and to avoid being accomplices in the efforts to silence the critical public opinion in the Republic of Macedonia.