Belgrade Higher Court Judge has delivered a first-instance verdict against the Network for Investigating Crime and Corruption (KRIK) (https://www.krik.rs/), a Serbian investigative journalism online portal, over an article titled “Trial for Jovanjica 2 Begins” (https://www.krik.rs/zakazan-pocetak-sudenja-za-jovanjicu-2/).
The judge claimed the piece violated the presumption of innocence. “The court came to the point of view that the prosecutor was labeled a ‘drug lord’, therefore guilty, before the end of the criminal proceedings, which can equally end in both a conviction and an acquittal,” wrote the judge in the verdict she handed down. The judge obliged the editorial office and editor of KRIK, Stevan Dojčinović, to pay to the other side 89 800 RSD (app 760 EUR) for the mental pain caused and to compensate the costs of the lawyer. The Serbian Association of Judges criticized KRIK’s reporting about this case with the assessment that a number of incorrect claims were made, as well as that pressure was exerted on the court.
KRIK has appealed the ruling and anticipates that the appeal process will either overturn or modify Judge decision.
The person, who is facing charges as the alleged head of a criminal group involved in producing over a ton and a half of marijuana, filed two lawsuits against KRIK last year. He argued that news coverage of his trial caused emotional distress and damaged his reputation.(https://www.krik.rs/koluvija-tuzio-krik-i-urednika-dojcinovica/). During the trial, he testified about the social repercussions of the media’s coverage, including how neighbors began avoiding him, and bank employees declined to communicate with him or open an account.
KRIK’s editor-in-chief, Stevan Dojčinović, defended the use of colloquial language in their reporting, emphasizing that lengthy legal phrases were not suitable for their audience. He highlighted that other media sources and even government officials had made more severe allegations against this individual.
The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) strongly condemns the pressure on the Network for Investigating Crime and Corruption (KRIK). SEEMO is also surprised by the statement published by the Serbian Association of Judges. SEEMO highlights that media outlets play a pivotal role in holding institutions accountable, and their critical voices are integral to the functioning of a democratic society.
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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