NGOs Demand to be Included in the Adoption of the New Civil Defamation Liability Law10. October 2012 - 14:06 — Dejan Georgievski
The organizations gathered in the “Freedom – Front for Freedom of Expression” Coalition, protest the opaque procedure for adoption of the draft-Law on Civil Defamation Liability and demanded, in the press-conference held today at the NGO Infocentre in Skopje, for the whole process to restart and for the process of drafting and adoption of the Law to include as many stake-holders as possible.
“We are focused on the demand to take the whole process back to the beginning. At the moment, we don’t want to enter the material debate on actual provisions, but to ensure that the opportunity to enter material debate will be available to all stakeholders, which is not the case now”, said Biljana Bejkova from the NGO Infocentre.
Uranija Pirovska, Director of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights of Macedonia noted that the draft-Law covers all citizens of the country and that the Parliament, by evading its obligation to organize, after the first reading of the draft, to organize public debate and inform the citizens, the institutions, civil associations, trade unions and other entities about the draft-Law, denied the opportunity to the civil sector to present its comments and objections.
“We believe that such a faulty procedure will lead to many negative consequences, in view of the fact that this Law refers directly to the freedom of expression”, Pirovska said.
Žarko Trajanovski from the Coalition for Protection of Sexual and Healthcare Rights of Marginalized Communities emphasized that of the whole civil sector in Macedonia, only the Association of Journalists of Macedonia was involved in the preparation of the Law, in spite of the fact that the Law concerns all citizens, not just the journalists.
“The adoption of such laws can lead to introduction, not of censorship, we already have that, but of something far worse – a dictatorship”, Trajanovski said and added that the analyses of the Law, conducted by civil associations over the past several weeks, show that it couldn’t be improved only through amendment interventions.
“It is for that reason that we protest and appeal to the politicians to suspend the process and return it to the start, so they would take into serious consideration the participation of the civil organizations in the process. Also, we warn all MPs that will vote for the Law that tomorrow we may accuse them of being accomplices in the process of introduction of censorship in Macedonia”, Trajanovski added.
Roberto Beličanec from the Media Development Centre (MDC prepared an analysis of the questionable provisions in the draft-Law with a list of all violations of international standards for defamation legislation. The analysis is available on MDC website – www.mdc.org.mk.) noted the attempt to push a whole group of Laws related to defamation and media regulation to be adopted in an express procedure, without any serious debate, which resulted in a number of serious omissions and problems detected in its provisions. Beličanec also accused the foreign actors of playing an important role in the whole story of the lack of transparencz of the drafting process.
“The whole story uses as a cover some purported ‘European agenda’ and Europe is very much involved in it as an accomplice. I can’t say if the claims that the Law passed the necessary expert readings hold water until we see the expert opinions. We can find ourselves in a situation to discuss a Law and expert opinion of the Council of Europe that nobody has seen, with exception of those directly involved in the process”, Beličanec said and added that it was not too late to open the draft-Law to serious public debate.
“We appeal to the MPs to open up the process, to open the Committees for participation and to take all comments and objection into consideration. If they intend to intervene with amendments, they will have to go all the way. Our analysis found problems in 20 of the 35 articles of the Law. We appeal again to stop the whole process before it is too late. One month will make no difference for European integrations in Macedonia, but it can change a lot in terms of protection of freedom of speech“, Beličanec said.
Xhabir Derala from the Civil – Centre for Freedom repeated that the process needs to stop and return to the beginning, with full participation of all stakeholders so that, he noted, the process of restoration of the suspended democracy and rule of all in the country could start.
“We see right through this approach adopted by the Government and its attempt to hide behind some European agenda. There are plenty of people left in Macedonia who can think freely and think with their own head”, Derala said.
Filip Stojanovski from the Metamorphosis Foundation referred to the additional responsibilities and liabilities that the proposed Law introduces in the area of communication over the internet, i.e. the liability of internet service providers for contents published and transmitted through their channels.
“If the law remains in its current form, we could presume freely that one consequence would be the elimination of public communication over the internet, in forums, websites, etc., as a preventive measure of ISP companies scared by the possibility to get involved in defamation litigation in the Courts. The process has better chances to arrive to a quality solution if it involved as many actors and stakeholders, and if the citizens have the opportunity to state their opinions in a public debate. That has not been the case with this law”, Stojanovski said.
Uranija Pirovska added that the press-conference held today was just the first of a series of activities of the Front for Freedom of Expression that will take place over the coming days.