Criminal defamation was repealed in Macedonia in 2012.
Criminal Defamation of Public Officials
Criminal Defamation of the Head of State
Criminal Defamation of the State and its Symbols
Provisions on the books.
Art. 178 of the Macedonian Criminal Code prohibits ridiculing or publicly mocking the Republic of Macedonia, its flag, coat of arms or national anthem. The punishment is a fine.
Criminal Defamation of Foreign States and Symbols
Provisions on the books.
Art. 181 of the Macedonian Criminal Code prohibits publicly mocking a foreign state, its flag, coat of arms or national anthem, the head of a foreign state or the diplomatic representative of a foreign state in Macedonia. The punishment is a fine.
In addition, Art. 182 of the Criminal Code punishes publicly mocking an international organization. The punishment is a fine.
Criminal Defamation of the Deceased
Provisions on the books.
Art. 319, par. 1 of the Macedonian Criminal Code prohibits ridiculing religious symbols (as well as national and ethnic symbols) in a way causes or incites religious hatred, discord or intolerance. The punishment is imprisonment from one to five years.
Should riots, violence of significant property damage result from the act, the punishment is increased to imprisonment from one to ten years (Art. 319, par. 2).
Statistics on Application
In 2012, Macedonia abolished defamation as a criminal offence and adopted the Law on Civil Liability for Insult and Defamation in 2012. While the law is relatively strong in terms of the clear defences provided, the caps on non-pecuniary damages introduced have been criticised as excessively high, particularly in proportion to journalists’ salaries. Excessive damage amounts awarded in practice as well as high court costs may outweigh the positive aspects of this law. Recent also suggest that the law’s application has been hampered by civil court costs that are “dramatically higher” than those in criminal court.
According to the Law on Civil Liability, a person is liable for insult if he or she intentionally disparages another person or a through statement, behaviour, publication or other medium expresses derogatory thoughts toward another person. Entities protected by the law are natural person, groups of individuals, deceased persons and also legal entities (Art. 6).
A person is liable for defamation if he or she presents or disseminates before a third party untrue facts harming the honour and reputation of another person with the intention of harming that person’s honour and reputation, while knowing or having been obliged to know and may know that the facts are false. Entities protected by the law are natural persons, legal entities, group of people or deceased person (Art. 8).
Compensation for non-pecuniary damage caused by defamation and insult committed by a media outlet is capped at €2,000 for the journalist, €10,000 for the editor, and €15,000 for the legal entity (i.e. the media outlet) (Art. 18).
Art. 13 of the Law on Civil Liability prescribes that before submitting a claim for compensation, the damaged person or legal entity can request an apology and a public retraction via the media in which the defamation/insult was committed. The apology and a public retraction must be published in the same place, or at the same time (electronic media) and must be the same length as the disputed information, and it should be published no later than 48 hours upon the day the request was received. According to Art. 15, par. 1, non-pecuniary damage is awarded if the defendant has not apologized/publicly retracted the statement or repeated the insult or defamation after the court ruling prohibiting the repetition of the statement.
In addition to the statuory defences below, it should also be noted that the Law on Civil Liability explicitly states (Art. 2) that the case law of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) on freedom of expression is considered to be part of the law in force in Macedonia.
Insult: According to Art. 7(3), a person is not liable for insult if he expresses a degrading opinion about a public official in relation to a matter of public interest and if he proves that it is based on true facts or that he had reason to believe that the fact was true; or if the statement contains valid criticism or encourages the discussion on a matter of public interest; or if it is expressed in accordance with professional standards and ethics of the journalistic profession.
Defamation: Falseness of the facts is the most important condition of proving defamation. The defendant is obliged to prove the truthfulness of the facts. If the defendant proves truthfulness of the facts or proves that he had reason to believe that the facts were true, he will not be liable for defamation (Art. 9, pars. 1-2). If the facts are related to the private life of the plaintiff, then proving the veracity facts is excluded, except in specific cases, such as in relation to scientific, literary or artistic work, or to serious criticism while performing an official duty, journalism, political or social activity or to defence of the freedom of public expression, or other rights, or the protection of public interest or other legitimate interest (Art. 9, par. 4). In addition, if the defamatory act consists in publicly disseminating a claim that the other person committed a crime or is convicted of such offense, liability is excluded if the statement is made in the public interest, if the person has proven the truth of the statement or has proven that he had grounds to believe such facts were true (Art. 9, par. 5).
Insult: See above under “Truth”
Defamation: See above, under “Truth”. In addition, according to Art. 10, par. 1 person will not be responsible for defamation in relation to scientific, literary or artistic work, or to serious criticism while performing an official duty, journalism, political or social activity or to defence of the freedom of public expression, or other rights, or the protection of public interest or other legitimte interest if:
1) the statement consists of facts contained in an announcement, decree or another document issued by an authority of the state, a state institution or a legal entity, or have been presented at a public gathering, in litigation, or other public event of the authorities of the state, associations, or legal entities, or other person’s public statement;
2) the person that made the statement is being denied the right of access to public information, contrary to the provisions of freedom of information, to which he refers in his defence;
3) the incorrect facts given in the statement have secondary importance, compared to the valid facts given in the statement, and do not change the context of the statement as a whole; and/or
4) the statement given in a media outlet contains facts that are related to issues of public interest by referring to reliable sources of information in order to emphasise their truthfulness, in regard to which the defendant has behaved with the necessary precautions in accordance with the professional standards of journalism as a profession.
Honest opinion (fair comment)
Insult: See above under “Truth”. In addition, there is no liability for insult if the statement is made in relation to scientific, literary or artistic work, or to serious criticism while performing an official duty, journalism, political or social activity or to defence of the freedom of public expression, or other rights, or the protection of public interest or other legitimte interest if:
1) the manner of expression or other circumstances show that it was not meant as an insult;
2) the opinion did not cause substantial injury to the honor and reputation;
3) the opinion was not presented for the purpose of humiliating another person or disparaging his honor and reputation.
According to Art. 7, par. 4, a person shall not be liable for insult in relation to a negative opinion about another person, if the opinion is stated with honest intent or with confidence as to the good faith of the opinion.
Defamation: See above under “Reasonable publication”
Insult: According to Art. 7, there shall no liability for insult when:
1) the statement in question is given when participating in the Parliament of the Republic of Macedonia, in the work of the councils of the municipalities and the City of Skopje, in administrative or judicial procedure or in front of the Ombudsman, unless the plaintiff proves that it was given with malicious intent;
2) an opinion contained in an official documents (such as Parliament, Government, administrative bodies, the Court or other state authorities etc) is communicated; or
3) an opinion presented at public gatherings or public events (such as activities of state bodies, institutions etc) is communicated.
Defamation: See above under “Reasonable publication”
According to Art. 9, par. 3, the burden of proof shifts to the plaintiff if he/she is a public office holder. Public office holders are obliged to explain the facts related to public office if the defendant is able to prove that he or she had reasonable ground to present the statement in the public interest.
If someone decides to sue a journalist because of defamation, the journalist cannot be requested to reveal his or her sources for the facts to be proven. However, the Court may ask for the relevant information to be disclosed in order to determine the truthfulness of the facts without identifying the source. If the defendants still rejects the disclosure, he or she cannot be held guilty solely on the grounds of not revealing the source of information (Art. 12).
According to Art. 22, the determination of liability and compensation of damages in civil defamation and insult is considered an urgent matter. In case the offence was committed via mass media, the competent court must start proceedings within 30 days after the lawsuit was submitted to it. The court is obliged to finish the proceedings within reasonable time, with the least possible costs.
Media Cases and Case Law
Notable cases involving the media
In 2014, a Skopje court (case P4 30/13a) ordered journalist Vlado Apostolov and editor-in-chief Jadranka Kostova of the Macedonian newspaper Fokus, along with the former Macedonian ambassador to the Czech Republic, Igor Ilievski, to pay damages to the director of the Macedonian Security and Counter-Intelligence Directorate (UBK), Sasho Mijalkov. The latter had sued for defamation over a Fokus article that quoted Ilievski as stating that he had resigned as ambassador due to “the coordinated activity of the chief of the Macedonian secret police, Sasho Mijalkov, with his ‘friends’, who are very well organized in the Czech Republic”. Apostolov and Kostova were ordered to pay €6,000 in damages and around €3,300 in legal costs. Ilievski was ordered to pay €10,000 in damages.
In 2013, journalist Vesna Kovacevska Trpcevska was (case P4 57/13a) to pay 120,000 Macedonian dinars in moral damages to her former employer, Kanal 5 TV, after Trpcevska alleged that the station had fired her under pressure from the president of the cabinet of the Prime Minister, Martin Protugjer, and that Protugjer together with Prime Minister Gruevski “created the editorial and personnel politicies in TV Kanal 5”. The leadership of Kanal 5 TV sued Trpcevska for defamation to protect their integrity and reputation.
Recent Legal Changes
In 2012, Macedonia repealed criminal defamation laws and and adopted the Law on Civil Liability for Insult and Defamation in 2012.
Noted and Acknowledgements
Information on defamation laws in Europe was collected by the International Press Institute (IPI) in collaboration with the School of Public Policy’s Center for Media, Data and Society at Central European University in Budapest and their partners at the SHARE Foundation in Belgrade. (Read more about our partners here.)
The information contained in this database is for informational and advocacy purposes only. If you are a journalist facing a defamation claim, you should seek legal advice from a qualified attorney. However, if you are unable to find such an attorney, IPI may be able to assist you in doing so. Please contact us at ipi[at]freemedia.at.
Information on FYROM/Macedonia was last updated in January 2015.