Support for Free Journalism, Today Called KRIK

source: National Anti-SLAPP Task Force

This month, the Court of Appeal in Belgrade confirmed two verdicts against KRIK, according to which this media should pay almost one million dinars in compensation and trial costs.

 

The National Anti-SLAPP Task Force supports the research website KRIK, which has faced the largest number of SLAPP-like lawsuits in the last three years, and especially in the last two weeks, with rulings that could have far-reaching consequences for freedom of expression in Serbia.

 

At the beginning of June 2024, the Court of Appeal in Belgrade confirmed the first-instance verdict by which KRIK was convicted for violating the presumption of innocence of Predrag Koluvija, who sued journalists because they wrote that Koluvija was an “accused narco boss” when reporting on the “Jovanjica 2” case. When deciding, the court did not take into account the entire text, but concentrated only on one phrase and did not accept the journalist’s explanation that the text used the expressions “accused and prosecution” and “according to the prosecution’s claims”. 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.

 

The Court of Appeal in Belgrade, in a short time, passed another verdict against the editorial office of KRIK. The procedure was conducted based on a lawsuit filed by the commander of the police Witness Protection Unit and two of his associates due to a text from December 2021 in which KRIK announced that they, among others, filed a lawsuit against this newsroom.

 

In addition to the two final verdicts, at the beginning of May the journalists of the KRIK portal were sued by the judge of the Appellate Court in Belgrade, Dušanka Đorđević, because of the “Judge Who Judges” database in which the journalists researched the work of the judiciary, where she is also mentioned. One lawsuit is criminal and the other is civil. Judge Đorđević, in addition to damages, is asking for prison sentences for the journalists and a ban on work for a period of two years. In lawsuits filed on May 13 and 15, Judge Đorđević claims that journalists violated her privacy by publishing her name and position at the Court of Appeal in Belgrade, as well as details of the real estate she owns with her husband. She further claims that KRIK journalists threatened her safety and helped criminals locate her.

 

There are currently 15 other lawsuits pending against KRIK, which have the characteristics of a SLAPP. We are afraid that the government has decided to legally silence professional journalists and that this is just the beginning.

 

We fear that the government has finally decided to deal with independent media and journalists, and that KRIK is only the first on the list. We demand that the authorities stop stifling media freedom by abusing the judicial system, as well as provide support to independent media and ensure their work without fear of repression.

 

On this occasion, we call on the Government of Serbia to take all necessary steps as soon as possible in order to implement the Recommendation of the European Commission on the protection of journalists and human rights defenders who participate in public work from obviously unfounded or abusive court proceedings (SLAPP) and the Recommendation of CM/ Rec (2024) on Opposing the Use of Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP) to resolve manifestly baseless or abusive lawsuits against public participation and protect journalists and human rights defenders in particular from such actions, with full respect for democratic values ​​and fundamental rights.

 

The National Anti-SLAPP Task Force in Serbia, consisting of:

 

Independent Journalists’ Association of Serbia (NUNS)

Civic Initiatives 

YUCOM

Slavko Ćuruvija Foundation

Partners Serbia

Belgrade Centre for Human Rights

Independent Journalists Association of Vojvodina (NDNV)

BIRN

 

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