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Macedonia16 May 2006

Parliament abolishes prison sentences for press offences

Reporters Without Borders today hailed the Macedonian’s parliament approval on 10 May of a criminal code amendment proposed by the government decriminalizing defamation. Previously, journalists convicted of defamation faced up to three years in prison.

“A candidate for EU membership, Macedonia is one of the few European countries to amend its laws to allow more press freedom,” the organisation said. “Defamation penalties are too often used to intimidate journalists and encourage self-censorship. We invite other European countries such as Poland, Croatia and Serbia-Montenegro that still send journalists to prison for defamation to bring their laws into line with the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights.”

The most recent case of a prison sentence for defamation in Macedonia was in September 2003, when Zoran Markozanov of the weekly Zum was given a suspended sentence of two years in prison and a year on probation for libelling former parliamentary speaker Stojan Andov, the head of the liberal party.

Other Balkan countries still impose prison sentences for press offences. At least two journalists received suspended prisons sentences in Croatia in 2004 and 2005 for what they wrote about politicians and public figures. Predrag Matvejevi got one in November 2005 for criticising the aides for former President Franjo Tudjman. Ljubica Letinic, a journalist with the state radio and TV broadcaster and the Reporters Without Borders correspondent received a two-month suspended sentence for defaming a local businessman.

In Serbia-Montenegro, the former editor of the weekly Podrinski Telegraf, Milan Milinkovic, received a one-year suspended prison sentence and a fine on 10 February 2005 because a judge took issue with his using the word “cooperation” rather than “relationship” to refer to the links between a member of the Serbian socialist party and the head of a company that distributes Kodak film.

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