The Higher Court of Belgrade has ruled improperly that sociologist Vesna Pešić and Peščanik portal editors Svetlana Lukić and Svetlana Vuković must pay 200,000 dinars to Serbian Interior Minister Nebojša Stefanović, and case procedure costs of 95,100 dinars, due to their “violation of the reputation and honour” of this government minister.
Peščanik editor Lukić commented that this verdict represents pressure exerted on the media via the judiciary and said that she would rather go to jail than pay the penalty, but that such a possibility does not exist. Journalists’ associations consider this verdict to be politically motivated and that the court decided to punish the expressing of an opinion or political stance.
Minister Stefanović filed the lawsuit due to an article about demolition works in Belgrade’s Savamala neighbourhood, which occurred under the cover of night in April 2016, stating that they “damaged his reputation, honour and personal dignity”.
The demolition of buildings in Savamala in April 2016 enabled the smooth implementation of plans under the auspices of the Belgrade Waterfront Project. A section of the public responded rebelliously due to this act, while harsh criticism was also directed towards the police for failing to respond to citizens’ calls to intervene against the masked people who, according to witness testimonies, temporarily deprived passers-by of their freedom.
Pešić said that she criticised the interior minister and not Nebojša Stefanović privately, and that in the article she dubbed as ‘stupid’ the statement of the minister that the police could not react to the demolition of properties in Savamala because that would have put them at risk due to broken electrical cables.
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