Macedonian Court Rejects Appeal by Activist Sentenced for Defaming Pro-Government TV Host

Zharko Trajanoski, Žarko Trajanoski, Жарко Трајаноски

Activist and human rights expert Zharko Trajanoski. Photo used with his permission.

Five years after the case first began, Macedonia's judiciary has finally rejected an appeal by an activist, sentenced for defaming a pro-government television show host.

Global Voices reported in 2010 about the court case against human rights activist Zharko Trajanoski, accused of defamation by Milenko Nedelkovski, the host of a TV show that airs on the national TV channel Kanal 5, and is frequented by former Prime Minister Gruevski, President Ivanov, and other ruling party functionaries. A vocal supporter of the government, Nedelkovski has several times advocated the murder of the ruling Party critics (especially journalists and civil-society activists). Nedelkovski didn't deny using hate speech, arguing instead that “traitors” deserve hate.

In 2010, Trajanoski called Nedelkovski a “media charlatan,” criticizing the TV show host's tendency to praise ethnic and religious discrimination, sexual harassment, and homophobia on his show and online, where he mixes local political propaganda with conspiracy theories, off-road driving, and old YouTube videos about unsolved mysteries, like UFOs.

In November 2012, Macedonia decriminalized defamation, moving it from criminal to civil courts, though steep fines are still possible. Despite this reform, the case against Trajanoski went ahead, and he was sentenced in 2014.

More than a year later, Nedelkovski's public behavior hasn't changed. In March 2015, he earned condemnations from both the OSCE and Council of Media Ethics of Macedonia for continuing his “negative practice of hate speech.”

On December 29, 2015, moreover, a Macedonian appellate court refused to reconsider Trajanoski's verdict. On January 29, 2016, Trajanoski posted a photo of the court decision on his Facebook profile with the following comment:

Part of the Appellate Court Skopje verdict against Zharko Trajanoski.

Part of the Appellate Court Skopje verdict against Zharko Trajanoski.

Апелациониот суд Скопје ја потврди пресудата со која треба да му платам 20.000 денари плус камата на медиумскиот шарлатан Миленко Неделковски. Судот си додели и 52.170 денари за судски трошоци во постапка која траеше 5 години. Бев обвинет по еден закон, а осуден по друг, во кафкијански процес.

Ич не му се лутам на Миленко. Тој ја докажува секојдневно вистинитоста на моето тврдење дека е медиумски шарлатан, а се надмина себеси како шарлатан со пропагирањето дека земјата е рамна плоча.
Гневен сум на сите судии што застанаа во одбрана на честа и угледот на медиумскиот шарлатан, кој сеуште неказнето повикува на ликвидација на неистомисленици. Борбата продолжува.

Skopje Appellate Court confirmed the sentence that I should pay MKD 20.000 (USD $362), plus interest, to the media charlatan Milenko Nedelkovski. The court also awarded itself with MKD 52.170 (USD $943) in court expenses, for a trial lasting five years. I was accused according to one law, sentenced according to another, in a Kafkian process.
I am not mad at Milenko. He's been proving the truthfulness of my claim that he's a media charlatan on daily basis, and he surpassed himself as a charlatan by propagating that the earth is flat.
I am angry at all the judges who stood in defense of the honor and reputation of the media charlatan, who still enjoys impunity while calling for liquidation of people who disagree with him. The struggle continues.

Just two days before Trajanoski's announcement above, Nedelkovski posted the following list on Facebook, which drew considerable attention on social media.

Screen shot of a Facebook post by Milenko Nedelkovski, promoting the notion that the Earth is flat as part of a global conspiracy theory.

Screen shot of a Facebook post by Milenko Nedelkovski, promoting the notion that the Earth is flat as part of a global conspiracy theory.

In his January 27 post, Nedelkovski wrote:

Неколку дилеми:
1. Има ли вистинска фотографија или видео на “планетата“ Земја од вселената? (ве молам без компјутерски имиџи)
2. Има ли фотографија од воздух на Јужниот пол?
3. Зошто авионите од ЈАР летаат за Австралија преку Индија?
4. Има ли вистинска слика на Земјата направена од Месечината?
5. Зошто нема директен лет од Сантјаго де Чиле до Сиднеј?
6. Како светилниците се гледаат толку на далеку?

Не брзајте со дебата, оти имам документ од НАСА дека земјата не е топка, ами рамна!!!

Several dilemmas:
1. Is there a true photo or video of “the planet” Earth from space? (please without computer images)
2. Is there a photo from air of the South Pole?
3. Why do airplanes from South Africa fly to Australia via India?
4. Is there a true photo of Earth made from the Moon?
5. Why is there no direct flight from Santiago de Chile to Sydney?
6. How come lighthouses can be seen from so far away?

Don't hurry with the debate, I have a NASA document confirming that Earth is not a ball, but that it's flat!!!

There's been relatively little debate about Trajanoski's trial in public. In fact, only two websites even reported the verdict (Plusinfo and Okno), and Trajanoski's own Facebook post attracted just 50 “shares.” Readers’ comments offered sentiments that ranged from dismay to opinions that his trial is proof of judicial corruption and a warning to all who dare to speak out against what they regard as hate speech sanctioned by the country's ruling party.

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