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A Macedonian journalist arrested for failing to pay his fine in a controversial slander case has avoided jail after his colleagues settled the payment.
Emil Zafirovski, a journalist for the local weekly Forum, was detained by police in a café in Skopje on Monday for failing to pay a €500 fine or serve a 25 days in prison after he was sentenced in a slander case dating back to 2004.
But Zafirovski told local media he never received a court notice to appear on trial and was never notified about the sentence.
“I still do not know who sued me and when the court verdict was reached,” Zafirovski said upon his release.
His arrest came after he notified police of his location after they phoned him.
The Forum newspaper said Zafirovski had been denied the right to defend himself in a fair trial and it would raise his case with relevant domestic and international institutions.
There have been almost 200 slander cases against journalists in Macedonia over the last four years, according to official data from the Ministry of Justice.
The Macedonian Journalist’s Association, ZNM, has been calling for slander to be decriminalised in line with practices in some western democracies.
Macedonia’s ruling VMRO DPMNE party instructed its officials to withdraw all slander charges against journalists in December 2008.
There are currently 12 cases against reporters outstanding.
The media watchdog Freedom House said in its latest report that legislation covering slander was one of the main obstacles journalists in the country faced in doing their job.
It ranked Macedonia media as partly free, with 4.25 points on a scale of one-to-seven, with seven representing the worst possible conditions.
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