February 26, 2024

26.02.2024 – Journalist Zorica Kusmuk Faces Defamation Charges in Republic of Srpska, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Investigative journalist Zorica Kusmuk, based in Bijeljina, Republika Srpska (one of the two entities of Bosnia and Herzegovina), has become the first officially accused of defamation in the Republic of Srpska, Bosnia and Herzegovina, a charge established as a criminal offense since last year in this entity. Defamation carries penalties of fines up to 6,000 BAM (3,068.69 EUR). Kusmuk, known for her investigations on corrupt practices and criminal activities within the police and judiciary, was recently interrogated by the Bijeljina Police Department. She faces allegations not only of defamation but also of unauthorized publication of another’s document, portrait, or recording.

At the heart of the criminal prosecution against the investigative journalist is a video she published in December 2020, allegedly showing police interrogation methods. Specifically, Kusmuk is accused of labeling on several occasions a policeman in Bijeljina, as a “torturer of suspects” on her Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/zorica.kusmuk.info/?locale=sr_RS) and website zoricakusmuk.info(https://zoricakusmuk.info/). Additionally, in August of last year, she purportedly referred to a police inspector as a “criminal” in a Facebook comment and expressed hope for his arrest. Furthermore, on 24 October 2023, she allegedly shared a video and photo on her Facebook page and website, implicating a policeman in forcing a statement from an individual, and asserting his involvement in discrediting the late inspector.

In response to these accusations, Kusmuk stated that she initially published the video in December 2020 and subsequently required clarifications from the Bijeljina District Prosecutor’s Office regarding the legality of the police officers’ actions during interrogations. However, she claims she has not received a response from the prosecution until today.

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is monitoring the case and condemns the legal actions taken against journalist Zorica Kusmuk. The charges of defamation levied against her, allegedly for her investigative reporting, raise serious concerns about press freedom situation in Republika Srpska, as one of the two entities of of Bosnia and Herzegovina. SEEMO calls for an immediate cessation of legal harassment against Kusmuk and urges authorities in Banja Luka, Republika Srpska, Bosnia and Herzegovina, to uphold the fundamental principles of freedom of expression and the press, crucial for a democratic society. Such actions threaten the integrity of journalism and undermine public trust in media institutions. SEEMO stands in solidarity with Zorica Kusmuk and demands that she be allowed to carry out her work without fear of reprisal.

South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is a regional non-governmental, non profit network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in Southeast, South, East and Central Europe. SEEMO members are in Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Moldova (with the territory of Transdnestria), Montenegro, North Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Türkiye / Turkey, Ukraine and Uzbekistan. Austria, Italy, Vatican and San Marino have a special status in SEEMO. SEEMO has over 3000 individual members, and additional media as corporate members.


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