The ruling by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg comes after domestic courts ruled that Focus editor Jadranka Kostova and journalist Vlado Apostolov should pay more than 9,000 euros as damages to former ASC director Sasho Mijalkov for defamation and insult. According to the Strasbourg verdict, published today, the judicial authorities in Macedonia violated Article 10 – freedom of expression of the European Convention on Human Rights, and the plaintiffs, editor Kostova and journalist Apostolov were awarded non-pecuniary damage of 3,000 euros or 1,250 euros.
The application was submitted in 2016 after the journalists were convicted in domestic courts for defamation and insult of the then director of ASC, for which they paid him damages of over 9,000 euros. The texts were published in the extinct daily Focus, where statements were made by former Czech Ambassador Igor Ilievski, who claimed he had fled the Czech Republic due to pressure from Mijalkov. The ECtHR proceedings were represented on behalf of the journalists by the Medarski Law Office in Skopje.
AJM in 2014 considered that the decision of judges Lidija Dimchevska, Stanka Zafirovska and Enver Bexheti seriously violates the freedom of expression and discourages journalists from writing about possible abuses of power, while the compensation for non-pecuniary damage is too high and disproportionate.
AJM then appealed that the court was introducing an unacceptable practice of convicting journalists for defamation for a transmitted statement. If a journalist checks the facts of each statement, as required by the court, then most public statements should not be published.
In 2014, in the context of this case, AJM managed in less than ten days through the solidarity action to collect most of the required 9,000 euros as much as the journalists of the newspaper “Focus” should pay to the director of UBK Sasho Mijalkov for the non-material damage.