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IFJ hails verdict on media law as a "victory for press freedom"

(IFJ/IFEX) - 23 July 2010 - The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), the European group of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), today welcomed a landmark decision by the Constitutional Court of Serbia rejecting repressive amendments to the Public Information Act of Serbia.

"This is a major victory for press freedom," said Aidan White, General Secretary of the EFJ. "The Court's decision strikes down a chilling attack on free expression and unequivocally vindicates the action taken by our colleagues in Serbia."

The Journalists' Association of Serbia (JAS), an EFJ affiliate, has won its appeal against the Act after its adoption by the Serbian Parliament in August 2009. In yesterday's ruling, the Court found in favour of JAS and rejected the repressive amendments to articles 14, 16, 92, 93 and 95 of the Public Information Act.

The Court said the amendments passed by the Parliament violated the country's constitution and international conventions that govern freedom of expression. In particular, the Court held that the provisions prescribing who can found a media outlet and penalty clauses in the Act are in breach of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

"The proposed amendments to the Act would have imposed an enormous restraint on press freedom in Serbia, resulting in stifling the media, as well as in self-censorship," added White. "We congratulate our affiliate in Serbia for their commitment to fight this violation of citizens' rights."

The EFJ warns of new threats to press freedom in Serbia, saying that the law on Electronic Communications passed by the Serbian Parliament on 29 June will threaten protection of journalists' sources. "Protection of sources is a cornerstone of press freedom and the EFJ will support its affiliate in Serbia to also strike down this draconian law," concluded White.

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