SARAJEVO, 05.01.2017.-One of the factors that can influence the suppression of freedom of the media is the disproportionately high compensation of the non-material damage that has been imposed against the journalist, said Arben Murtezić for Oslobodjenje.
The aim of the project “Reinforcing Judicial Expertise on Freedom of Expression and the Media in South-East Europe“(JUFREX), implemented by the Center for Education of Judges and Prosecutors in FBiH in co-operation with the Council of Europe, is to strengthen the capacities of the local judiciary for the application of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights with a view to improving the freedom of expression and media freedom in BiH and the region. The project will last by the end of March 2019, being implemented in six countries of the region and funded by the Council of Europe and the European Union.
– The interest groups of this project are judges, prosecutors, lawyers and journalists. They work separately, but the goal of the project is to reach common conclusions, says Director of the Center for Judicial and Prosecutorial Training in FBiH Arben Murtezić.
He added that one of the factors that could influence the suppression of freedom of the media is the disproportionately high compensation of non-material damage that has been imposed on journalists. In particular, he could not speak about the examples, arguing that we should re-examine the situation we are now facing. “I know for example that five to ten of your collegues journalists pay bank lowns for these non-material damages, and they also have the entire publishing houses that find themselves in the problem. Public interest claims to talk about this practice, “Murtezić claims.
BiH is one of the countries that decriminalized the defamation, and the goal was to encourage journalists to gain greater freedom. “However, the amount of non-pecuniary damage can have a deterrent effect,” Murtezić recalls, and recalls the fact that BiH was standing very high for freedom of expression 15 years ago, but lately he has heard more and more criticisms.
“Freedom of expression in itself is right, but it is specific in that it is freedom that guarantees and assists all other freedoms. Without freedom of expression, you can hardly achieve any other value in a democratic society, “he says.
The conclusions reached within the JUFREX project are that additional defenses are needed in defamation cases, that the defendant is in the process of defamation as a public figure and that the Constitutional Court of BiH repeals the final decisions of the ordinary courts, mostly because of insufficient reasoning of the conclusions of the first instance courts concerning the issue of proportionality in particular the relationship between facts and value judgments.
Reliable statistics on the amount of claim damages claims do not exist. In the first years, these requests were enormously high and, according to the findings of the BH Journalists Association, they were between KM 50 and 250 thousand. There have been several claims and in million dollars, while in the last few years most of the claims are not more than 5,000 KM, and a considerable number is below that level.
Zinaida Đelilović/Oslobođenje, Sarajevo, 05/01/2018