The Association of Journalists of Macedonia (AJM) with its representatives and the legal team today attended the repeated trial in which former Vice Prime Minister Kocho Angjushev is suing Sashka Cvetkovska and the Investigative Reporters Laboratory (IRL).
We would like to remind you that lawsuits like this one against IRLs in the context of the Council of Europe are known as strategic lawsuits for the suppression of public participation (SLAPP). These types of lawsuits serve to cause intimidation and legal costs or simply exhaust the defendants, in this case critical journalists, in order to demotivate them or to desist from public criticism. These lawsuits, especially when they are initiated by economic powerhouses, politicians and public office holders, can cause self-censorship among journalists and thereby violate the right to information of citizens.
Today’s first hearing is the result of the decision of the Skopje Court of Appeal against the colleagues from the Investigative Reporter’s Laboratory (IRL), to the detriment of free journalism, to annul the verdict of the Basic Court and return to trial the case in which former Deputy Prime Minister Kocho Angjushev is suing Sashka Cvetkovska and IRL.
AJM strongly reacts to the extremely disparaging attitude of Mr. Angjushev’s lawyer towards those present in the courtroom, but also the attitude towards the court which can be qualified as pressure on the public.
Let’s just remind you that the Civil Court rejected the lawsuit for defamation of Kocho Angjushev, but the Court of Appeal found with a shameful decision that the lower court did not evaluate the evidence conscientiously and carefully, did not take into account more evidence and testimonies that were against Cvetkovska and wrongly and incompletely identified her the actual situation.
AJM is a professional journalists’ organization that offers free legal assistance to journalists and media workers in the country, but also as a member of the European Federation of Journalists – EFJ has a practice of following, monitoring and reporting on the processes involving journalists and media workers.