North Macedonia: Justice Minister introduces amendments to increase protection of journalists
Penalties for attacks on journalists will be toughened in North Macedonia, Justice Ministry Bojan Maricic announced on 27 July 2021. The amendments to the Criminal Code are expected to be passed in the early autumn. The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) joined its affiliates in North Macedonia, the Independent Trade Union of Journalists and Media Workers (SSNM) and the Association of Journalists of Macedonia (AJM), in welcoming an important step forward for press freedom in the country.
The amendments have come at the request of the journalists’ association and union and will help reduce cases of attacks and threats against media workers, said the Minister of Justice during a press conference.
Changes include new penalties for assaulting a journalist or a media worker, from three months to three years in jail. Authorities will treat cases involving journalists in the same way as they treat assaults on police officers. Therefore, the public prosecutor will deal with these cases ex officio.
In addition, fines for defamation will be significantly reduced from 2,000 euros to a maximum of 400 euros for journalists, from 10,000 euros to 2,000 euros for editors and from 15,000 euros to 5,000 euros for media outlets.
The amendments also provide for the introduction of the term “stalking” as a criminal offence that will cover online harassment. People stalking, persecuting or trying to pursue unwanted contact with a person through the use of media will face fines and a maximum sentence of three years in jail.
“We have been advocating for this law for 4 years and this is indeed good news. We hope that the law will be passed in September as announced, and that it will reduced impunity for attacks on media representatives. The higher penalties envisaged for attacks on journalists and media workers are welcomed, but what is also important for us is that attacks will be treated ex-officio by the competent institutions, as until now many cases did not go beyond reporting to the police. We must end impunity so that journalists and media workers can be safe to do their work properly”, said Pavle Belovski, president of Independent Trade Union of Journalists and Media Workers.
EFJ General Secretary Ricardo Gutiérrez said: “This announcement is very good news for journalists and media workers in North Macedonia. We welcome the strong commitment of the government of North Macedonia and call on the members of parliament to adopt this law. We also encourage neighbouring countries to follow this example and show good will to improve the working conditions of journalists and media freedom.”
This statement by EFJ is part of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), a Europe-wide mechanism which tracks, monitors and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States and Candidate Countries.