Government officials and media advocates are strongly condemning the recent court decision to find the IRL news outlet guilty for defamation of powerful businessman and former Deputy Prime Minister Koco Angjusev.

Angjusev decided to sue IRL for one of the two news reports they did about his business – accusing him of using his position as Zaev’s deputy to benefit heating oil importers linked to his own Brako company. Judge Jovanka Spirovska Paneva found IRL guilty and ordered them to pay the symbolic fine of 1 EUR for damages. The judge also found that IRL, led by journalist Saska Cvetkovska and represented by the regime linked law office of Filip Medarski, is not registered as a media outlet but as an NGO group. This prompted concerns that the courts could in the future hand out harsher penalties to similar news items.

President Stevo Pendarovski, Deputy Prime Minister Slavica Grkovska and the AVMU media regulator are among the politicians and institutions who condemned the sentence. “Labeling, discreditation and attempts to regulate the journalists and the media outlets were happening in the past and we all witnessed where that brought us in terms of our democratic development. As a country that is determined to join the EU and shares the European values of democracy, transparency and accountability, it is necessary that we follow international standards for freedom of expression”, President Pendarovski’s office said in a statement.