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Serbian journalist jailed for defaming party officials

This statement was originally published on on 22 March 2017.

Reporters Without Borders condemns the prison sentence of two years and three months handed down by a Serbian court to freelance journalist Stefan Cvetkovic for defamation and unauthorized publication of documents.

Cvetkovic was prosecuted after three officials of the ruling Serb Progressive Party filed complaints against him. He was found guilty by a court in the city of Vrsac, north-east of Belgrade, on March 14, which also fined him more than 2 million dinars (17,000 euros).

Cvetkovic is a well-known critic of the local authorities, against whom he filed a complaint of misuse of public funds in 2014, and recently raised questions about the role of the three officials in various criminal matters.

The journalist, who has received a number of death threats, said he would appeal against the verdict, which he saw as a new attempt to intimidate him.

"This verdict is unfair and disproportionate," said Pauline Adès-Mével, the head of RSF's European Union-Balkans desk. "Since 2012, defamation is no longer punishable by imprisonment."

Serbia is ranked 59th of 180 countries in the 2016 Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index.

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