The Association of Journalists of Macedonia and the Office of the Council of Europe organized a three-day expert seminar on “Strategic Lawsuits against Public Participation (SLAPP), Comparative Experiences and Practice for Recognition and Prevention” from April 14 to 16 in Gevgelija.
The seminar was attended by lawyers and journalists who had the opportunity to discuss and exchange experiences on SLAPP lawsuits or known as strategic public participation prevention lawsuits that aim to intimidate and financially exhaust the defendant journalists or media. When initiated by politicians and holders of public office, these lawsuits can provoke fear and self-censorship among journalists, and thus violate the right of citizens to be informed.
Mladen Chadikovski, President of AJM, in his address said:
“It is good that we have the opportunity to see each other at a professional seminar, where the topic is lawsuits that we often face, to exchange opinions and experiences that will help us change in the future, to improve the approach when it comes to SLAPP lawsuits. Here, with us are the experts from the Council of Europe who I believe will contribute a lot to addressing the issue for both sides of the participants – journalists and lawyers.”
Aleksandra Bogdanovska, Senior Project Manager, Program Office of the Council of Europe in Skopje emphasized the cooperation with AJM as part of the project “Freedom of Expression and Freedom of the Media in Northern Macedonia (JUFREX 2)”:
“AJM are our partners and together we target topics and goals that are of common interest by prior arranging and addressing current problems and needs. In that direction is this expert seminar, which is unfortunately our last within the specific project, but I will emphasize that in the past we had very successful cooperation on topics that are different and topics that have contributed to legal changes, such as strategic lawsuits against public participation. I would like to inform you that the Council of Europe has set up a working group that will deal with this issue, i.e., the adoption of a recommendation for SLAPP.”
The seminar was also attended by experts from the Council of Europe whose specialty is exactly this type of lawsuits.
Flutura Kusari spoke about SLAPP lawsuits, why they became a serious threat to journalism and available research on the topic, and was later followed by a group discussion on “How to react when faced with SLAPP?”, a session that provided an opportunity to discuss how to recognize a SLAPP lawsuit, how the media might react to a SLAPP lawsuit and how to seek support, and the role of lawyers and judges was discussed.
The second expert from the Council of Europe, Alexander Kachamov, presented three cases of SLAPP from Europe, with an open discussion by those present on this topic.
The implementation of this type of seminar is of particular importance for journalists, but also for lawyers who have a practice of representing journalists in legal disputes because the experiences of both parties with SLAPP lawsuits contribute to greater readiness to deal with the issue.
* This event is organized by the Association of Journalists of Macedonia, as a partner of the project “Freedom of Expression and Freedom of the Media in North Macedonia (JUFREX 2)” within the joint program action of the European Union and the Council of Europe “Horizontal Instrument for the Western Balkans and Turkey 2019 – 2022