Coalition for Media Freedom: KRIK’s Verdict is Unfair, Urgent Adoption of Anti-SLAPP Recommendations is Necessary

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Source/Author: IJAS

The Court of Appeal in Belgrade confirmed the first-instance verdict by which KRIK was convicted of violating the presumption of innocence of Predrag Koluvija, who sued journalists because they wrote that Koluvija was an “accused drug lord” when reporting on the “Jovanjica 2” case.

According to KRIK’s writing, the Court considers that KRIK’s use of the wording “accused drug lord” Koluvia “designated the perpetrator of a punishable crime, although there is no court decision on this” and did not accept the journalist’s explanation that the words “accused and accusation” and “according to the allegations of the prosecution” were used in the text. The court did not take into account the fact that Koluvija’s defense was also published, as well as the fact that it is a topic of great importance to the public.

KRIK journalists announced the continuation of the legal battle in this case.

The Coalition for Media Freedom believes that this verdict is unfair, because the Court did not take into account the entire text when deciding, but concentrated on only one phrase. We fear that such a decision may be an invitation to other powerful people and politicians to put pressure on investigative journalists.

Recently, the judge of the Court of Appeal filed two lawsuits against KRIK because of the “Judge Who Judges” database. In the lawsuits she filed, in addition to monetary compensation, she is also seeking a two-year ban on journalists and 10 months in prison – due to the alleged violation of the right to privacy.

There are currently 16 proceedings against KRIK journalists. The Coalition for Media Freedom, as well as many international journalists and media organizations, believes that these are classic SLAPP lawsuits aimed at silencing journalists. This, in contrast to the direct pressures that journalists suffered during the nineties of the last century, is a seemingly legitimate means to shut down independent media in a legal way.

That is why we call on the legislator to show that it wants to protect independent journalism and to adopt the Anti-SLAPP recommendations of the European Commission and the recommendations of the Anti-SLAPP Directive of the European Parliament as soon as possible. These documents contain key guidelines for early dismissal of unfounded claims against journalists and activists.

We also invite the judges to consider the aforementioned recommendations with particular attention in future proceedings against journalists, to recognize the characteristics of SLAPP lawsuits and, based on that, to decide how the proceedings will proceed.

The Coalition for Media Freedom: the Association of Media, the Association of Online Media (AOM), the Independent Association of Journalists of Vojvodina (NDNV), the Independent Journalists’ Association of Serbia (NUNS), the Business Association of Local and Independent Media “Local Press”, the Slavko Curuvija Foundation and Branch Trade Union of Culture, Arts and Media ‘Nezavisnost’ 

Belgrade, June 10, 2024