KRIK Convicted in Definitive Ruling for Naming Individuals Who Sued the Outlet

Foto: N1

The Belgrade Court of Appeals upheld a ruling against KRIK for a December 2021 article stating that the commander of the police Witness Protection Unit, Goran Živković, and two of his associates had filed a lawsuit against the newsroom. The judges’ explanation included statements not actually written by KRIK, such as claims that the police officers were „filing lawsuits under regime orders“. KRIK now must pay the three officers a total of 3,500 EUR in damages and legal costs, amounting to about 6,000 EUR overall costs for the whole trial. This is the second definitive ruling against KRIK this month.


“We can no longer even publicly complain about the fact we are being sued because we then get sued for that too and lose in court”, says KRIK editor Stevan Dojčinović. “The worst part is being found liable for something we never published, for sentences that don’t exist in our article and were invented by the judges, and for our opinion that these are SLAPP lawsuits. This ruling means any investigative media outlet can be convicted regardless of what they publish, as judges will interpret journalistic articles freely and add sentences to them.”


In December 2021, amid a surge of lawsuits against our newsroom, we published an article listing the names of those who had sued, with the editor’s opinion that these were SLAPP lawsuits intended to silence journalists.


In the article, we mentioned that the lawsuits against KRIK were filed by, among others, the then-head of the Security Intelligence Agency Bratislav Gašić, the Serbian president’s best man Nikola Petrović, the tabloid Kurir, and finally the police commander Goran Živković with his two associates, due to an article about the problems within their police unit.


It was precisely because they were listed in this group that Živković and his colleagues decided to file a new lawsuit against the newsroom. The police officers claimed their honor was damaged because Dojčinović stated they had filed a SLAPP lawsuit (a term used internationally for lawsuits filed by officials and powerful individuals against journalists and activists) and that KRIK labeled them as the people of the regime, which is not true as it is not written anywhere in the article. KRIK even noted at the beginning of that article how the lawsuits against the newsroom “were mostly filed by people in power or businessmen close to them.”


The case was handled by Judge Slobodan Keranović, who swiftly convicted KRIK’s journalists, but the verdict was overturned by the Court of Appeals. The case was returned to Keranović, who once again issued the same ruling against KRIK.


KRIK appealed again but the new panel of the Court of Appeals decided to confirm the ruling.


The panel led by Judge Irena Vuković, with Judges Jasna Lozuk and Stanislava Mitrović, accepted Keranović’s explanation that KRIK’s journalists had defamed the police officers by, as the judgment states, characterizing them as regime affiliates, even though this was not stated anywhere in the article.


The court’s explanation included statements KRIK never made, such as allegations that the police were „filing lawsuits under regime orders to suppress media freedom.”


“The defendants’ value judgment that the plaintiffs, as regime-affiliated individuals, filed lawsuits alongside others to jointly pressure and silence KRIK, portraying the plaintiffs as individuals who file lawsuits under regime orders to suppress media freedom, lacks factual basis,” the verdict states.


The judges also ruled out the possibility of this case being a SLAPP lawsuit.


“The plaintiffs’ right to file lawsuits if they believe their constitutionally guaranteed rights have been violated cannot be disputed, and there is no evidence of procedural abuse by the plaintiffs”, states the verdict signed by Judge Vuković.


The verdict is now final, and KRIK must pay the officers damages and legal costs. KRIK will seek a Supreme Court revision of the case and will appeal to the Constitutional Court.



Police Officers Lost Previous Case against KRIK


Before this lawsuit, the same three police officers had previously sued KRIK over an investigative story about the work of Serbian Witness Protection Unit, but they lost that case, as the final verdict was in KRIK’s favor.


Judge Jasmina Vukovljak Jovanović stated that KRIK addressed a matter of public interest and adhered to journalistic standards.


“The information pertains to public interest, it is informing the public about the activities of individuals employed by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, not their private lives,” the judge noted in her ruling.


The judges deciding on the second lawsuit did not even consider that KRIK had previously won in court, with the court acknowledging that KRIK reported professionally on this police unit within the Serbian Ministry of Interior.



SLAPP Lawsuits Flood KRIK


This is the second definitive verdict against KRIK received just this month.


Recently, we were found liable in a lawsuit filed by Predrag Koluvija, who is on trial for allegedly organizing a criminal group that produced over a ton and a half of marijuana.


Besides these two cases, KRIK is currently facing 14 more lawsuits initiated as SLAPPs.


KRIK is facing numerous pressures and needs help! Donate to KRIK and help us continue to resist pressures and investigate crime and corruption! More about how to donate can be found here.


Read the article for which KRIK was found liable.


Source: KRIK


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