Macedonia: Privacy Developments in 2008

By EDRi · January 28, 2009

(Dieser Artikel ist auch in deutscher Sprache verfügbar)

Even though the Constitution of the Republic of Macedonia and the Law on
Personal Data Protection (LPDP), the Criminal Code, Law on Organization and
Operation of State Administrative Bodies and other laws recognize and
protect the rights of privacy, data protection and secrecy of
communications, the implementation of these protections has met with major
difficulties during 2008.

A small number of Macedonian NGOs cover the issue of privacy, and during
2008 their main concerns involved the protection of human rights of children
on the Internet-including the privacy of children-and the protection of
privacy by the police and law enforcement agencies.

In July 2008, the Parliament ratified the Additional Protocol of the
Convention for the Protection of Individuals with regard to Automatic
Processing of Personal Data regarding supervisory authorities and
trans-border data flow. This document was signed on 4 January 2008. In July
2008, the Parliament also enacted the Law that amends the LPDP and increased
the fines for spamming. Both pieces of legislation (the Additional Protocol
and the amendments) came into force on August 19, 2008.

The main amendments and modifications were made for the harmonization with
the EU acquis and CoE Convention, adding specific provisions regarding video
surveillance, the independence of the Directorate for Personal Data
Protection and the simplification of the notification and complaint handling

For the period of 2007-2008, the Directorate gave priority to public
awareness on the right of personal data protection. In cooperation with the
EDRI-member Metamorphosis Foundation it implemented the Norwegian model on
raising public awareness for youngsters, through creation of educational
content and conducting public events in three secondary schools.

During 2008, Metamorphosis Foundation implemented the Children’s Rights on
the Internet – Safe and Protected (CRISP) project, co-funded by the European
Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) and Metamorphosis. It
included establishment of a network of 12 NGOs working on the promotion and
safeguarding of children’s rights online in cooperation with the Directorate
for Personal Data Protection. Project activities included developing a
curriculum and educational resources in Macedonian and Albanian, available
both offline and online, and conducting trainings. The trainings covered 50
primary and 20 secondary schools with participation of 8,482 children, 1,138
parents and 1,170 teachers from 12 cities and 7 villages from all parts of

A public panel on privacy in Macedonia held on 26 August 2008, as part of a
public consultation to elaborate the Macedonia Report for Privacy and Human
Rights Report 2008, reiterated the assertions from the previous year that
there has been no public knowledge about cases of implementation of privacy
protection provisions of the Law on Electronic Communications, and spamming
remains widespread practice in the Macedonian business sector. Moreover, at
least one company continues to provide spamming services for other
companies, and the number of Macedonian legal entities who have a privacy
policy remains insignificant.

Even though wiretapping is regulated and unauthorized wiretapping is
prohibited, the wiretapping cases initiated in the past have not reached
closure in court. The most notable example is the process against the state
initiated by 17 journalists who have been subject to surveillance in the
“Big Ear” affair of 2001. Over seven years, four different judges have
unsuccessfully presided over this trial, and it was finally resolved at a
retrial in June 2007. The state was found guilty, but the 17 plaintiffs
stated that they remain dissatisfied with the compensation and the whole
process. Their representatives stated that they won’t discontinue the trial
already underway at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, based
on their complaint. In September 2008, the Appellate court confirmed the
verdict of the basic court, but lowered the damages from the initial 6.000
Euros to approximately 4.000 Euros per journalist. The journalists have
stated that “they are not satisfied with the compensation, and the precedent
sets a signal that the violation of human rights is cheap in Macedonia.”

After the Parliamentary elections of June 2008, the Government and the
Parliament used an unjustified fast-track procedure, to adopt changes and
amendments to over 164 laws in July and 17 laws in the following month
without any public debate. These changes included amendments of the Criminal
Procedure Code and the Law on Communication Interception that widened the
powers of surveillance for the law enforcement agencies.

Prominent NGOs such as Foundation Open Society Institute – Macedonia,
Association for Criminal Justice and Criminology of Macedonia and Helsinki
Committee for Human Rights of the Republic of Macedonia condemned the
legalization of preventive surveillance and removal of need to justify
special investigative measures with evidence of reasonable doubt before the
judiciary. The NGOs warned that these changes can turn Macedonia from a
state based on a rule of law into a “police state unconcerned with respect
of basic human rights and freedoms.”

In practice, even the older, stricter legislation was not enforced. The
Parliamentary Committee for the supervision of the application of
communication interception techniques by the Ministry of the Interior and
the Ministry of Defense was denied access to data and did not issue any
reports during 2008.

Metamorphosis Foundation also provided opportunities for raising awareness
of opinion and decision makers, for instance, by including data protection
sessions within the 2008 agenda of the Fourth International Conference focused on ICT in Education.

In order to raise the public awareness also, Metamorphosis also formed an
ad-hoc coalition of NGOs and other institutions to celebrate the Freedom Not
Fear Day in Macedonia. FNF coincided with the public holiday of 11 October –
the Day of uprising against fascism in World War II, and involved organizing
public debate at the faculty of law and distribution of information on video
surveillance on university campuses and the centre of Skopje, including an
infostand and public survey. Several thousands of people were reached by
these activities, and most citizens expressed concerns about various ways of
“spying” conducted by the Government, corporations and individuals which
threaten their privacy.

During 2008, legal experts and human rights activists raised concerns about
the extensive use of detention and violation of privacy and the presumption
of innocence. The Macedonian Helsinki Committee and the Human Rights Project
continuously condemned spectacular arrests by the police, which included
inviting the media to film the handcuffed suspects escorted by law
enforcement officers. Only one TV station with license for national
coverage, TV Telma, adopted a policy to no longer broadcast such arrests and
police-escorted transports.

Reacting changes in the legislation the Helsinki Committee also organized
public debate on the reasonable expectations in regard to privacy protection
versus efficiency in the fight against crime and corruption in a state of
laws on 25 November 2005. However, state representatives failed to appear at
the debate and provide arguments that would alleviate the concerns raised by
the representatives of the civil and academic sector.

Metamorphosis Foundation

International Conference

International Conference “Democracy in the Digital Age: Challenges and Opportunities”

Macedonia: Public outcry over new legislation for preventive surveillance,en/

Freedom Not Fear in Macedonia (10-11.10.2008)

Debate on Privacy in Macedonia (26.08.2008),en/

Appellate court confirms: The Big Ear Journalists were
wiretapped (only in Macedonian, 2.09.2008)

Decree for enacting the Law for changing and amending the Law on Personal
Data Protection (only in Macedonian, 19.08.2008)

Fees ranging from 500 to 2000 Euros for unwanted spam-messages (only in
Macedonian, 29.08.2008)

Debate on Privacy in Macedonia, Metamorphosis Foundation (29.09.2008),en/

Directorate of Data Protection in Macedonia – Legal grounds for the
protection of personal data in the national legislation

Helsinki Committee for Human Rights of the Republic of Macedonia

Human Rights Support Project

(contribution by EDRi-member Metamorphosis Foundation – Macedonia)