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"Borba" newspaper harassed for publishing information deemed to be a "state secret"; ANEM calls for clearer definition of "confidential information"

(ANEM/IFEX) - The following is a 23 February 2009 ANEM press release:

ANEM condemns violation of freedom of the media and pressure exerted on the daily newspaper "Borba"

The Association of Independent Electronic Media (ANEM) strongly condemns pressures exerted on the daily newspaper "Borba" after publication of an article about the decision made by the Government of Serbia to pay one million dollars to ensure that the trial of Miladin Kovacevic, accused of inflicting injuries on American student Brian Steinhauer, will be held in Serbia instead of in the USA.

The police first announced a hearing and examination of "Borba" because of the publication of state secrets, although later the Minister of Internal Affairs, Ivica Dacic, said that investigators would not be sent. At the same time, Dacic informed the owner of the newspaper, Ivan Radovanovic, and the editor-in-chief, Olivera Zekic, that they would be required to make an official statement to the police. Dacic said that the police are obliged to acquire all the necessary information about the case on orders from the prosecutor's office.

ANEM notes that the media are allowed to publish information of public importance regardless of the manner in which such information was discovered, in accordance with the Law on Public Information. ANEM also points out that the same law stipulates that the journalist (who authored the article) is not required to reveal the source of information in this case.

The acting public prosecutor, Slobodan Radovanovic, said that the prosecutor's office is not interested in the media outlet and the journalist who published the information about the case of Miladin Kovacevic, which has been declared a state secret, but in the persons who gave the journalist the information and violated its confidentiality. The prosecutor pointed out that the prosecutor's office has always supported and protected the freedom of the media and public discourse and will continue to act in such a manner, including in this case.

ANEM supports the point of view of the acting public prosecutor, who announced that criminal charges may be brought against the persons who revealed the state secret, but not against the journalists and the media who reported on the information that has already been made public. ANEM points out that this has not always been the case, and appeals to the prosecutor's office to drop the criminal charges against TV B92 journalists Ivana Momcilovic, Jasmina Karanac and Antigona Andonov, who will be examined at a court hearing on the orders of the Fourth Municipal Prosecutor's Office in Belgrade. The journalists have been accused of publishing parts of the wiretapping transcriptions in the case of the so-called "road mafia", whose confidentiality had already been compromised by other persons.

ANEM supports the demands for a clear legal definition of criteria for the confidentiality of information that would prevent abuses and the wrongful classification of information of public importance as "secret information".

ANEM Chairman, Sasa Mirkovic

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