Today (06 April 2022) the Director of the Academy realized a work meeting in the premises of the Academy with the representatives of the Netherlands Helsinki Committee, the Free Press Unlimited, representatives of the Judicial Media Council and representatives of the Association of Journalists of Macedonia.
The work meeting was realized within the cooperation of the Academy with the institutions whose representatives were part of today’s meeting, and the focus was put on the topic promotion of the relation between the judges and journalists in order to gain the trust of the public in the judiciary.
At the meeting, the Director of the Academy supported the aforementioned initiative which includes trainings and creation of modules treating the relations between the judges and the public prosecutors on one hand and the journalists on the other. She expressed the preparedness for further cooperation with all involved partner institutions in the development of work materials and conducting educational events which will not only include the existing judges and public prosecutors, but also the students attending the initial training of the Academy.
Ivan Dzolev, President of the Primary Court Skopje I Skopje, who was present in the capacity of President of the Judicial Media Council, stated that the relation between the judiciary and the media is quite solid at the moment. Positive steps were taken which made the courts more transparent; however, there are still many open questions and dilemmas which should be solved. Manuals and guides should be prepared which will strictly define the manner in which the public will be informed, especially when it comes to the criminal court and high profile cases. He pointed out that one must be careful when it comes to informing the public, and added that the responsibility for the perception of the public is mutual responsibility of the judges and journalists.
Dragan Sekulovski, the Executive Director of the Association of Journalists of Macedonia, presented the views of the national research which the Association of Journalists of Macedonia conducted within the cooperation with the partner organizations from the Netherlands. He underlined the positive aspects, but also the need of bigger transparency, especially by the public prosecutor’s offices towards the journalists. Events are needed for building the capacities for improving the intersectoral communication, for the legal professionals and for the journalists.
Vasko Maglesov, journalist and representative of the journalists – member of the Judicial Media Council, added that in order to promote such relations, the awareness of the prosecutors and judges should change about the importance of the public in every court and prosecution procedure. We need to work together to overcome the discomfort of the judges and prosecutors to cooperate with the journalists and establish a mechanism for clearly determining these relations which will be based on respect.
Kristina Naceva, representative of the Association of Journalists of Macedonia, which is also the project coordinator, agreed that some progress was made, especially with the judges, which is not the case with the public prosecutors. She said that there are two key elements when it comes to creating the perception of the public of the judiciary, i.e. trust and lack of communication. In her opinion, the judges and the public prosecutors must understand the profession of the journalists, but at the same time the journalists should be aware of the position of the judges and public prosecutors, especially when it comes to cases of special interest under the public scrutiny.
The representatives from Netherlands presented their experiences and provided some positive practices which could apply in North Macedonia.
Namely, Machteld Geertsema, Public Prosecutor from Amsterdam and also Media Relations Officer, emphasized that the relations between the public prosecutors and the media in the Netherlands are excellent and they are fully open to cooperate with them. Of course, there are limitations in line with the Dutch laws when it comes to sensitive information which cannot be shared with the public in particular moment. However, they always try to timely inform the public, and the journalists may ask them about everything in their interest and for the interest of the public with regards to particular case.
One of the questions asked was whether the photos of the judges and public prosecutors should be posted on the websites of the institutions? That is not allowed in the Netherlands, while in North Macedonia the journalists explicitly request that. The journalists in North Macedonia have their own justified reasons i.e. they say that the face of the judge is the face of justice and the truth, and therefore the citizens should be able to see who administers the justice in their country. According to them, this is one of the ways to return the trust in judiciary.
For Neda Josimovik, representative of Free Press Unlimited, these are simultaneously old and new questions which require bigger inclusion and dedication for improvement and implementation of the already existing regulation for improving these relations which are of exceptional importance when it comes to transparency in the judiciary.
Joeri Buhrer Tavanier, Project Manager in the Netherlands Helsinki Committee was satisfied that this meeting resulted in active discussion from all participants. According to him, trainings including the judges and public prosecutors are needed, as well as promotion of the cooperation between all involved parties who should build the transparency and gradually strengthen the trust of the citizens in the judiciary.
Anne Tahapary, the representative of the Dutch Training and Study Centre for the Judiciary, expressed support and open opportunity for further cooperation between the Centre and the Academy, in order to solve the problems identified in this meeting, which are integral part of the strengthening of the relations between the judiciary and the journalists.
Prof. Dr. Natasha Gaber Damjanovska, Director of the Academy, fully supported the realization of activities deriving from the needs and requests of the judges, the public prosecutors and the journalists in relation with this topic.