Sign up for weekly updates

Newspaper sentenced to pay damages to judge

(ANEM/IFEX) - The following is a 23 October ANEM press release:


Belgrade, Serbia, October 23rd, 2008 - The Association of Independent Electronic Media (ANEM) and the Independent Journalists Association of Serbia (NUNS) support the request submitted by the Association of Independent Local Media "Lokal Press" to the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Serbia regarding the recent judgment by the District Court in Kragujevac against the newspaper "Svetlost".

In the beginning of October, "Svetlost" was sentenced to pay damages of 600,000 dinars (approx. US$9000) to judge Simonida Miloradovic. This decision was prompted by a letter from a reader, Miroslav Simonovic from Kragujevac, published by "Svetlost" without any editorial comments in September 2007, which was critical of the Kragujevac judiciary and judge Miloradovic, among others.

Recent regulatory and judicial practices with regard to media content related to the judiciary are a reason for serious concern. Article 10 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms states that preservation of the authority and impartiality of the judiciary may serve as a legitimate basis for limitation of the freedom of expression, but only if other conditions are met, as defined by the Convention.

ANEM and NUNS recall that the Republic Broadcasting Agency last year published its General Mandatory Guidelines on the Conduct of Broadcasters, which contains a strict prohibition against interviewing perpetrators during investigations (which is logically contrary to the assumption of innocence), and a prohibition against broadcasting of recordings or material officially designated as secret as well as recordings or material acquired in an illegal way by individuals or the state administration, without taking into account that all these provisions may be contrary to the public interest. The General Mandatory Guidelines also contain a strict prohibition against publishing the contents of minutes of the court in criminal proceedings, which again completely disregards the public interest.

It is particularly worrisome that in the case of the Kragujevac-based "Svetlost", in the first instance proceedings against the newspaper the court decision was made by the District Court in Kragujevac, which is the same court where judge Miloradovic is employed, and that the Supreme Court of Serbia has rejected the proposal submitted by "Svetlost" to forward the case to another court in the interest of preserving the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.

The situation where proceedings and cases related to texts critical of the work of individual judges and courts, which were initiated by the judges themselves, including claims for damages, are decided by precisely those courts which were criticized, diminishes the authority of the judiciary on one side since it jeopardizes its impartiality, and on the other side represents a serious impediment to freedom of expression since it logically leads to self-censorship and reluctance of the media to report on the activities of the judiciary in general.

Latest Tweet:

Comenzó el 2019 y nada cambia en #México: asesinaron al periodista Rafael Murúa Manríquez. Murúa estaba bajo el mec…

Get more stories like this

Sign up for our newsletters and get the most important free expression news delivered to your inbox.