SafeJournalists and MFRR partners: KRIK journalists facing SLAPPs after publishing the profile of Judge Dušanka Đorđević in database

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    SafeJournalists Network (SJN) and partner organizations Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) condemn the legal actions filed by Judge Dušanka Đorđević and her husband against Crime and Corruption Reporting Network (KRIK), its editor-in-chief Stevan Dojčinović, and journalist Bojana Pavlović. SJN and MFRR coalition considers those legal actions as Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs), aiming at silencing KRIK for its investigative work. The SLAPPs are vexatious legal actions that are pursued as a means of harassing or intimidating journalists, media outlets, and other public watchdogs.  

    The lawsuits followed KRIK’s publication of Judge Dušanka Đorđević and her husband’s profile on the “Judge Who Judges” database on 24 January 2024. Launched in 2021, this database is a public source monitoring information on the Serbian judiciary. After the database was updated with information about Judge Đorđević and her husband, KRIK was notified of the lawsuits for data protection violations on 13 May 2024. One lawsuit is criminal,  based on the Criminal Code and the other one is civil, based on the Law on Contracts and Torts.

    Under the civil lawsuit, the judge and her husband are requesting the court to rule that their privacy rights have been violated, to remove their information from the database, and to issue an injunction preventing KRIK from republishing the same data, including information about the judgments, on its website. Failure to do so could result in KRIK being fined €100 for every day the content is not removed. The plaintiffs are also seeking damages of approximately €6,500, as well as coverage of their legal costs. The plaintiffs have also filed a private criminal lawsuit accusing the media and journalists of committing the criminal offence of Unauthorized Collection of Personal Data. They have asked the court to find the media outlet and journalists guilty and sentence them to imprisonment for 10 months each. They are also asking for the journalists to be banned from practicing their profession for two years. These disproportionate demands represent a serious attempt to silence KRIK’s investigation work of public interest.

    According to KRIK, including the profile of Judge Đorđević and her husband, a lawyer who is also employed by the Serbian Ministry of Finance, in the database was part of the process aiming at increasing the transparency of the judicial system. KRIK contacted the judge but she refused to answer their questions.

    We urge judges to refrain from abusive lawsuits, as such practices have a dangerous chilling effect on journalists and media outlets in Serbia. 

    We call on the Serbian government to swiftly implement the EU anti-SLAPP directive and include provisions for domestic cases to prevent such legal attacks in the future. Lawmakers should also refer to the Council of Europe’s Recommendation, which sets out robust standards that Member States must meet to ensure compliance with their human rights obligations when introducing domestic anti-SLAPP legislation.

     

    Signed by

    The Media Freedom Rapid Response 

    The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) 

    OBC Transeuropa (OBCT)

    Free Press Unlimited (FPU) 

    International Press Institute (IPI)

    ARTICLE 19

     

    SafeJournalists Network

    Association of Journalists of Kosovo

    Association of Journalists of Macedonia

    BH Journalists Association

    Croatian Journalists’ Association

    Independent Journalists Association of Serbia

    Trade Union of Media of Montenegro