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In Macedonia, a Draft Law on Defamation May Lead to Online Censorship

BY Antonella Napolitano | Wednesday, October 17 2012

The Macedonian Parliament is discussing a draft law on defamation related to online communication which may lead to strong censorship of online communication, the European Digital Rights reports.

The bill considers online service providers liable for penalties, along with the author, for any damage resulting from offensive or defamatory information the provider has allowed access to. “The proposed law is unconstitutional, being contrary to the fundamental principles of freedom of speech and censorship prohibition contained in Article 16 of the Constitution of the Republic of Macedonia,” points out Metamorphosis, an independent nonprofit foundation based in Skopje that first reported extensively about the bill.

Moreover, the definition of “online service provider” is not clear and may potentially include also IM application, forums and blogging platform. A judge will have to decide about it, but, says Metamorphosis Foundation's Filip Stojanovski, the term ‘provider’ is so vaguely used that it can apply also to a single blogger, for example. And, overall, the draft “eludes the presumption of innocence, the service providers being in the position of defending their innocence instead of the plaintiff offering evidence of guilt or malicious intent.”

The Macedonian NGO argues that “having in mind the risk of paying fines of up to 27,000 euros, it is very likely that the online service providers will disable the publication of any user generated content in order to avoid lawsuits, or at best they would be deleting everything they are required to delete.”

In the past weeks, the Media Development Center, a nonpartisan organization operating in Southeast Europe (the NGO is based in Bulgaria), organized a debate on the law and will submit the recommendations for improvement of the draft law to the Association of Journalists and Mps.
EDRI also reported that last week the Macedonian online community organized a blackout of Macedonian websites.

The draft law is currently in its first reading in the Macedonian Parliament.

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