Press release – 05.02.2015

We would like to inform the Public Prosecutor that, in accordance with Art. 272 and Art. 273 par. 3 of the Law on Criminal Procedures, anyone can report a crime, and the reason for action by the Public Prosecutor is also the voice heard, hence it is incomprehensible why the Public Prosecutor’s Office would ban the media to inform, whose existence is guaranteed by Art. 16 of the Constitution. It also remains unclear in the press release how journalists would know in advance which of the provided materials could be a subject to further criminal proceedings.

The CMEM informs the media and journalists, that, given the domestic and international standards to which Macedonia is a signatory, there is no cause for concern if they observe them.

Macedonia is a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights and is obliged, among other things, to fully respect Article 10 on freedom of expression.

In accordance with Art. 16 of the Constitution, freedom of belief, conscience, thought and public expression of thought is guaranteed. The freedom of speech, public address, public informing and the establishment of institutions for mass communication is also guaranteed. A free access to information, freedom to receive and impart information is also granted, as well as the right of correction in the media. The right to protect a source of information in the media is also guaranteed. Censorship is prohibited.

In accordance with Art. 48 of the Law on Audio and Audiovisual Media Services, audio and audiovisual media services must not contain programs that endanger national security, encourage a violent overthrow of the constitutional order of the Republic of Macedonia, call for military aggression or armed conflict, encourage or spread discrimination, hostility or hatred based on race, sex, religion or nationality.

The specific prohibitions of paragraph (1) of this Article shall comply with the European Court of Human Rights.

Thus, according to the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights, Observer and Guardian against the United Kingdom from 1991 and Vereniging Weekblad Bluf against the Netherlands from 1991, the principle is set that, once they are published, information on national security can not be prohibited or punish the authors that published them.

In the decision on Observer and Guardian, the Court stated that “freedom of expression constitutes one of the essential foundations of a democratic society, and according to par. 2 of art. 10 it is applicable not only to “information” and “ideas” that are received with benevolence or regarded as inoffensive or as a matter of indifference, but also to those that offend, shock or disturb. These principles are of particular importance when it comes to the press (media). While they must not exceed the limits set by law, inter alia, in the “interests of national security”, they are obliged to send information and ideas on matters of public interest. Not only does the press have the task to send information and ideas, but the public is also entitled to receive them. Otherwise, the press would not be able to play its vital role of a “public watchdog”.

Article 10 of the Convention contains no prohibition to impose prior restrictions on publication. On the other hand, the dangers posed by previous limitations are such that they call for the most careful scrutiny by the Court. This is especially true when it comes to the press, because news is a product with a short life and the delay in its publishing, even for a short period, can revoke its value and public interest.

Also, the media and journalists in such situations should base their work on art. 3 and 4 of the Declaration on freedom of political debate in the media, adopted by the Council of Europe on 12.02. 2004, which states that “political figures decided to appeal to the public trust and accepted to be subject to public political debate, and thus subject to supervision by the public and potentially strong public criticism through the media, in terms of the way in which they performed and carried out their functions, insofar as it is necessary, while ensuring transparency and responsible performance of the function.”

We remind journalists that, according to the Preamble of the Code of Journalists of Macedonia, following their role in building democracy and civil society, they will defend human rights, dignity and freedom, shall respect the pluralism of ideas and opinions, will contribute to strengthening the rule of law and in control of the government and other entities of public life.

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