In North Macedonia, trust in the justice sector is low according to recent polls, causing a lack of confidence in judicial institutions.
Deficient justice sector transparency fueled by low interaction with media which can inform the public, further undermines citizen confidence in the judiciary.
lack of clear public rules and policies about access to public records (e.g., court records) contributes to this environment.
Relations between media and judiciary members can be challenging.
Judges often lack the communication skills to interact with reporters who are, in turn, not educated about procedures regarding investigations, prosecutions, and trials.
Improving the skills, knowledge, and behavior of media and judicial representatives can help bridge the gap to educate the public, enhancing transparency and accountability of the judiciary.
For example, investigative reporters can strengthen their knowledge of legal and ethical restrictions for court disclosure of information and judges can further understand the role and importance of the media to promote citizen access to information.
U. S. Embassy Skopje’s INL Section partnered with the Macedonian Judges Association (MJA) to establish the region’s first JMC in 2018, based on the State of Massachusetts judiciary-media committee.
The JMC formalized the cooperation between judges and journalists initiated by INL in 201 7. The JMC has the status of an advisory body for the promotion of cooperation and dialogue between judges and journalists on issues of common interest, as well as the strengthening and affirmation of judicial transparency and public access to justice.
The JMC is composed of reporters and judges who build bridges, trust, respect, and cooperation between these two professions aimed at timely and accurate information for citizens about cases of public interest and general procedures.
This body is a forum where judges and reporters discuss, analyze, and resolve problems in favor of citizens, encouraging both parties to act with professionalism, ethics, and transparency in exercising their function to the benefit of the public.
While the JMC has had notable successes in improving court openness and court reporting, additional work and challenges remain to improve access to justice.
Transparency and accountability are key components of an independent and trustworthy judicial system.
The project aims to benefit North Macedonia’s citizens by supporting the judiciary’s transparency as it promotes accountability, combats corruption, eliminates arbitrariness, facilitates greater judicial independence, and enhances public confidence.
The justice system’s openness increases flow of information from the courts to society, enabling the public to learn about its performances and rulings.
The public will benefit from access to an accountable and transparent judiciary and criminal justice system.
INL aims to improve regulations and policies to increase transparency and access to public information as it can increase public confidence in the judiciary’s legitimacy, reassure society that justice is served, and enable society to understand the judiciary’s operations, challenges, and limitations.
This project will contribute to the U. S. government’s fight against corruption, a core U. S. national security interest which safeguards the U. S. citizen public.
By effectively preventing and countering corruption and demonstrating the advantages of transparent and accountable governance, a critical advantage for the United States, its citizens, and other democracies can be secured.