Amendments to the Criminal Law, which were adopted in February 2023, provide greater protection for journalists and media workers in the performance of their professional tasks.
For this purpose, the Association of Journalists of Macedonia (АЈМ) yesterday held a debate on the topic “Effects of the amendments to the Criminal Code in the direction of improving the safety of journalists and media workers”.
Speakers at the event were Toni Angelovski, Assistant to the Minister of Internal Affairs for Public Relations, Iskra Hadji Vasileva, Public Prosecutor in the Public Prosecutor’s Office Skopje and contact person for coordination in cases where there is a violation of the rights of journalists, Ognen Janeski, journalist from TV 24 , and Dragan Sekulovski, the executive director of the Association, and Milan Spirovski – senior project researcher, spoke from AJM, and the moderator of the debate was journalist Rita Behadini.
Angelovski referred to the practice and procedures of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in the direction of effective treatment of perpetrators of crimes and the role of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in prosecuting perpetrators who violate the rights of journalists.
“Cooperation between the Ministry of the Interior and the AJM significantly contributed to the improvement of the results in relation to the cases where journalists were attacked. Just for comparison, compared to 2017 when there were many physical attacks on journalists and many unsolved investigations, now 90% of cases are resolved within 2 to 3 hours after they are reported to us by AJM. As examples, I hope, the case of the attack on a journalist team from Alsat last month and the case of the attack on a cameraman from TV 24 when the persons responsible were quickly found and arrested. “Quick reporting and response are a condition for solving any problem, which in turn contributes to greater democratization of society,” Angelovski emphasized.
The prosecutor spoke on the subject of – prosecutorial – judicial practice on the application of the new provisions in the Criminal Code in the context of journalists and media workers, especially on attacks against female journalists:
“Nominating a person to monitor cases where journalists are attacked is an act of the prosecutor’s office to raise public awareness of the importance of freedom of speech. We have had several cases so far, but it is still too early to establish case law and draw lessons and conclusions that would help improve the approach. In terms of attacks on journalists and media workers, the process of solving a case with a physical attack is easier to solve because there is a way to find evidence faster, unlike a verbal attack where there is cybercrime and it takes more time. It is important to report it immediately, so that we can react immediately and prevent new attacks in the future,” said the prosecutor.
Journalist Janeski shared the challenges that journalists face in their daily practice, as well as the experiences of journalists with law enforcement:
Director of АЈM Sekulovski spoke about АЈМ’s previous work in the context of handling and alerting for violations of the Criminal Code in the context of journalists and media workers, while Milan Spirovski shared the conclusions and recommendations from the 2022 Journalists’ Safety Index.
“Macedonia records a jump in all indices for the safety of journalists and media workers precisely because of the fact that the amendments to this law put media workers in a privileged position and thus systemic solutions are offered so that they are more protected in the performance of their work. What remains for us as a challenge is to monitor how the investigations and court proceedings will unfold in the future in order to demotivate the attackers to attack the integrity of journalists and media workers, but also to reduce the trend of attacks, as well as the policy of impunity – said Sekulovski.
The conclusions were that it is of particular importance to establish positive judicial practice with the consistent application of these changes in order for judicial authorities to have a proactive approach in protecting the rights of journalists. Only through a functional system for the protection of journalists can it be expected that attackers will be demotivated to threaten and attack, thus ensuring a safe environment as a basic prerequisite for their work.
At the event, in addition to the official speakers, journalists who are part of the АЈМ attack register for 2023, as well as colleagues who monitor the work of judicial authorities were invited.