By EDRi

This article is also available in:
Deutsch: [Mazedonien: Neues Gesetz könnte zu Internetzensur führen | https://www.unwatched.org/EDRigram_10.19_Mazedonien_Neues_Gesetz_koennte_zu_Internetzensur_fuehren?pk_campaign=edri&pk_kwd=20121010]

A draft law on civil liability for insult and defamation related to
communication over the Internet, which has passed the first reading in
the Macedonian Parliament, may lead to strong censorship of the Internet.

According to the draft law, online service providers are liable for
penalties, along with the author, for any damage resulting from
offensive or defamatory information the provider has allowed access to,
unless it can prove the author of the respective information “was not
acting under direct or indirect control or influence by the online
service provider”, and that it “was neither aware, nor that it should
have been aware of the offensive or libellous material posted on the web
portal, or that within 24 hours after becoming aware of the offensive
and defamatory nature of the published text or information, the provider
has taken all the technical and other measures for the removal of such
information.”

This actually 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.

Most worryingly, the term “online service provider” is extremely
ambiguous and vague so that it could refer to any service provider
including forums, instant messaging, blogs, so much the more as those
allow for third party comments on posts. The judge will be the one to
decide what and who can be considered as online service provider that
allows someone to post an offending comment or link on a certain post.

The draft law will thus inevitably lead to service providers censoring
the content posted on their platforms in order to avoid becoming liable
for damages and being in the situation of having to pay fines of up to
27 000 Euro. This may also open the door to abuse.

Actually, 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.

Several recommendations of media experts and journalists for improving
the law came from participants to a debate organized by the Media
Development Center (MDC). One of the main provisions of the law that
should be amended without any doubt, is the division of responsibility
and the fine between the journalist, editor and owner, if defamation is
confirmed.

A strong reaction from the Macedonian online community was focused on
a blackout of Macedonian websites on 8 October 2012, with numerous sites
joining in.

Macedonia: Danger of censorship with the new Law on insult and
defamation (27.09.2012)
http://www.metamorphosis.org.mk/en/news/macedonia/2244-makedonija-opasnost-od-cenzura-preku-noviot-zakon-za-navreda-i-kleveta

Macedonia: Law on defamation instigates censorship and contains
illogical provisions (8.10.2012)
http://www.metamorphosis.org.mk/en/news/macedonia/2251-makedonija-zakonot-za-kleveta-pottiknuva-kleveta-i-sodrzi-nelogichni-odredbi

Draft Law (only in Macedonian)
http://www.sobranie.mk/ext/materialdetails.aspx?Id=548ae3f6-ab2a-480d-ac2c-20b9b0b0f192

Graph with blackout websites issued by Free Software Macedonia (only in
Macedonian)
http://skopjehacklab.github.com/blackout-mk/stats/