In response to a request from the Ministry of Justice of North Macedonia in March this year, the Association of Journalists of Macedonia (AJM) submitted proposed amendments to the Rules of Procedure, essential for the smooth operation of journalists and timely and accurate information to the public.
The submitted proposals were previously communicated with judges and representatives of this ministry and took into account the experience of journalists who report on issues related to the work of the courts through direct consultations with colleagues.
The remarks are divided into specific and general ones. The first ones refer to the part of the Rules of Procedure that regulates the transparency of the work of the courts and the access to hearings. The second remarks generally refer to improving court information availability by enhancing and increasing the content published on the courts’ websites relating to their work.
AJM, as special remarks in the proposals, emphasized the obligation to establish a central register of spokespersons of judicial units with the name and surname, telephone number, and email address of each court’s spokesperson. That register should be made public, and that information should be publicly available on sud.mk and the courts’ websites. To increase transparency, to regulate simple access to court records of journalists. This will facilitate journalists’ work and enable accurate and precise transmission of information (especially from sessions that last several hours).
In addition to several terminological corrections, the hearings’ interest and presence are of particular interest to the public, without the journalists and media workers being hindered in their work. In addition to journalists and media workers, it is necessary to include in the Rules of Procedure persons present in court to monitor hearings such as representatives of civil society organizations, international organizations, and the like.
AJM proposes in the Rules of Procedure to include an obligation for all judges to have published a standardized biography, photo, and contact email address on the websites of the courts as well as to have a central register of court.mk, as well as a person with a contact email address and telephone number who will be in charge of providing public information. Changes in the part of the published criminal court decisions on the website of the court are deleted after the expiration of the deadline for deleting the sentence, following the provisions of the Criminal Code, and other court decisions are deleted after the expiration of five years from the day of their publication. The five-year period is too short and should be increased by ten years.
The process for submitting remarks and suggestions on the changes is still open. Each journalist can offer different opinions, and the AJM will then communicate within the working group for the amendment of this document.