Macedonia (Republic of Macedonia) FYROM: Prison sentence handed down to a journalist in Kumanovo, Republic of Macedonia - FYROM

Macedonia (Republic of Macedonia) FYROM, 22/05/2006

To:

Branko Crvenkovski
President of the Republic of Macedonia

Ljupco Jordanovski
President of the Assembly of the Republic of Macedonia

Vlado Buckovski
Prime Minister of the Republic of Macedonia

CC:

Meri Mladenovska-Georgievska
Minister of Justice of the Republic of Macedonia

Ljubomir Mihajlovski
Minister of Interior of the Republic of Macedonia

Lence Sofronievska
President of the Court Council of the Republic of Macedonia

Skopje, Republic of Macedonia (FYROM)

Your Excellencies,

The Vienna-based South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists from South East Europe and an affiliate of the International Press Institute (IPI), is outraged by a prison sentence handed down to a journalist in Kumanovo, Republic of Macedonia - FYROM.

According to information before SEEMO, Zoran Bozinovski, co-owner and deputy editor-in-chief of the daily Trojka and a journalist for Forum Plus weekly, was recently given a 3-month prison sentence for criminal defamation and insult. The sentence was handed down by the Court in Kumanovo after charges were brought against Bozinovski for an article published in the local weekly Bulevar on 25 December 2003. At the time he was the newspaper's owner and editor-in-chief.

In accordance with the SEEMO Vienna Declaration of 6 May 2006, SEEMO regards prison terms for defamation as a gross violation of internationally accepted standards and believes that defamation should be treated under civil law, not as a criminal offence subject to punishment by the state. SEEMO also finds this sentence unacceptable because, on 10 May, the Parliament in Skopje adopted an amendment to the Criminal Code, which abolished imprisonment as a punishment for criminal defamation.

SEEMO has also been informed that Bozinovski has to report to the police today at 3 p.m. in order to start serving his sentence. However, the above-mentioned decision by the Parliament will be implemented on 23 May. At the moment, there are 82 pending charges against Bozinovski, mostly initiated by public officials. As a result of his investigative reporting, Bozinovski has been physically attacked and seriously injured in the past.

We remind Your Excellencies that reporting on controversial figures and topics is not only in the public interest, but also provides a context to delicate and difficult subjects. SEEMO, therefore, asks Your Excellencies to do everything in your power to rescind this court decision and withdraw the charges and the sentence against Bozinovski. SEEMO would also like to remind Your Excellencies that an open media environment, allowing for the free flow of information, is a fundamental principle of any democratic society.

We thank you for your attention.

Yours sincerely,

Oliver Vujovic

SEEMO Secretary General

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