In addition to providing legal aid to journalists, Media Development Center (MDC) continuously monitors all defamation action cases where journalists, editors and media are involved.
In the second quarter of 2015 (April-June), MDC monitored 28 court cases, at 52 hearings. From the enactment of the Law on Civil Liability for Defamation in November 2012 up until now, there have been 54 cases of defamation action cases against journalist that have been concluded, but in most cases there isn’t an effective judgement, i.e. there is an appeal procedure at the Appellate court. The reason for this is, partially, due to the fact that all these cases are handled by only three judges who, simultaneously work on other cases as well. At the same time, we learn from unofficial court sources that the slow drafting of the rulings is due to the fact that people are being hired at the courts of justices solely based on their party affiliations, who often lack necessary skills and competences required for the assigned tasks.
During this period, the Appellate Court adopted the defendant’s appeal in the case Gordana Jankulovska versus Petre Shilegov. The Appellate Court abolished the judgement of the First Instance Court and returned the case to reassessment, because of the fact that the Court of First Instance violated the contentious procedure, i.e. judgement is unclear, incomprehensible and it doesn’t contain sufficient reasons for the key facts which were considered by the Court of First Instance in the process. Also, the Appellate Court concludes that there has been a violation in the process of determination of the actual state and thus the application of substantive law has been violated.
According to MDC, the Appellate Court, rightfully established that the Basic Court did not determine whether this case actually is about defamation and whether the evidence provide information regarding the defendant’s bad intentions to deliberately degrade the plaintiff’s personality or the purpose of the defendant in his capacity as a spokesperson of a political party to express his opinion by providing a serious critique in terms of Article 10 of the ECHR based on evidence obtained by the State Commission for Prevention of Corruption,
Even though the Appellate Court followed the rules of procedure, still this decision begs the question why the Court, despite all the evidence of errors in the procedure at the First Instance Court, has not reached a verdict that will annul or alter the judgement.
With the decision to return the case for reassessment, the Appellate Court, in fact, transfers the responsibility to the First Instance Court. This begs the question whether the Appellate Court wants to avoid possible pressure, since the plaintiff is a former Minister of Interior Affairs and a current high official of the ruling party. Moreover, one has to wonder why the Appellate Court didn’t reach a verdict earlier and whether the verdict would have been the same if Gordana Jankulovska was still a Minister.
We notice that during this monitoring period the Court started to apply the principle of adjudging non-pecuniary compensation, according to which, mechanisms of non-pecuniary compensation have a priority in cases where it significantly harmed the plaintiff’s reputation.
Media Development Center implements this monitoring under the auspices of the USAID Programme for Strengthening Independent Media in the Republic of Macedonia and the USAID Project for Media Legal Reform and Responsible Media.
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