The Court of Appeal in Belgrade has confirmed the verdict of the High Court in Belgrade ordering the Autonomija portal, or rather its publisher – the Independent Journalists’ Association of Vojvodina, to pay almost 100,000 dinars to the headmaster of a Novi Sad secondary school in compensation for libel and defamation of character, as well as court costs incurred by the case.
The secondary school headmaster sued the Autonomija portal over its publishing of a January 2017 Democratic Party statement in which this political party demanded the headmaster be removed from his post. As the verdict shows, it was the court’s interpretation that parts of the statement included in the article represent the stance of this newsroom, while only the parts cited in quotation marks represent the stance of this political party.
“This kind of verdict represents a serious precedent, as it impinges on the media’s essential role in a democratic society to relay information coming, among others, from political actors. The court is assuming the role of an editor-in-chief and instructing journalists on how they should report and which words should be included in the articles they publish,” announced the Coalition for Media Freedom in its response.
The Coalition for Media Freedom comprises the Media Association, the Online Media Association, the Independent Journalists’ Association of Vojvodina, the Independent Journalists’ Association of Serbia, the “Lokal Pres” Association of Local and Independent Media and the Slavko Ćuruvija Foundation.
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