The Association of Journalists of Macedonia (АЈM) submitted a request to the Judicial Council to initiate a procedure to determine the responsibility of Judge Jovanka Spirovska Paneva from the Basic Civil Court Skopje for a disciplinary violation – unprofessional and negligent performance of the judicial function. On October 13th, a hearing was held for a procedure initiated after a lawsuit was filed to determine civil liability for insult and defamation by Kocho Angjushev, the former Deputy Prime Minister in the Government of RNM against the Investigative Reporter’s Laboratory (IRL) and the editor-in-chief Sashka Cvetkovska for the published story with the title “Conspiracy against the air” published on 16.05.2021.
After the questioning of the parties, judge Jovanka Spirovska Paneva, who led the hearing, asked the journalists and other persons who were members of the public to leave the courtroom with a verbal explanation that evidence of “Confrontation of the parties” would be presented because the presentation of this evidence requires exclusion to the public.
As an Association that has been fighting for years for freedom of expression and for the right of the public to be informed through the information conveyed by journalists, their exclusion from the courtroom for a case that is conducted against them, and initiated by high-ranking officials, has absolutely no legal justification. According to the provisions of the Law on Civil Procedure and according to our knowledge, neither an official, business, or personal secret was disclosed at the hearing, nor was public order violated, nor was it contrary to generally accepted moral values.
They should not be silenced without the right to access information, especially when they are sued for completed research work. Such procedures are a direct attack on freedom of expression based on the recommendations set by the Council of Europe and the European Convention on Human Rights.