The Macedonian government has announced amendments to the Criminal Code which will increase protection for journalists.
The news was announced through a press conference with the Minister of Justice Bojan Maricic. He said the new measures will help reduce cases of attacks and instances of threats against media workers.
The new amendments will categorize attacks on media workers in the same way that an attack on an official is treated. The Prosecutor’s Office will also have the power to act ex officio, meaning the media worker doesn’t have to file a complaint for action to be taken.
“The amendments have come at the request of the Journalists’ Association, whose representatives actively participated in the Working Group that was preparing the amendments to the Criminal Code,” Maricic said.
Additionally, the Law on Civil Liability has been amended to significantly reduce the value of fines that the media and journalists could be asked to pay for defamation. From EUR 2,000, the maximum is now capped at EUR 400.
Other amendments have been made to increase the protection of women. These were made in line with the Istanbul Convention. The new laws will include additional provisions for the protection of women and the introduction of new crimes such as harassment and stalking.
The Minister continued:
“With the introduction of the word ‘stalking,’ we envisage strict sanctions for harassment online, something that is, unfortunately, happening more and more often.”
Those who stalk, persecute, or interfere in their personal life, or try to pursue unwanted contact with a person, through the use of media, psychological abuse, harassment, or intimidation can be punished with a fine or up to three years in prison.
Meanwhile in Albania, despite calls to decriminalize defamation and requests to improve measures to protect journalists, nothing has changed. Politicians continue to file lawsuits against journalists in the civil court, and the government has a pending draft law in place that would see fines against journalists increase significantly.
The European Commission recently called for a new law to increase protection for journalists across the bloc and in candidate countries. This includes provisions against vexatious lawsuits, crimes against journalists to be considered as a specific category of crime, and quicker responses from governments for crimes against the media.
This comes after five journalists have been murdered in the EU since 2017. In all four cases, justice has not yet been achieved.