February 28, 2022
The research of Slavko Ćuruvija Foundation and the Centre for Judicial Research (CEPRIS) showed that the number of cases of endangerment of the safety of the President of Serbia ending in court is two times higher than the cases of endangering of journalists’ safety. The second regular report on the protection of freedom of speech in the judicial system of Serbia – “Freedom of Expression before the Court” takes into consideration final and binding judgments regarding the criminal offence of the endangerment of safety. One of the conclusions of the report is that the judiciary failed to ensure equal treatment of all citizens before the law.
Unlike reported threats against journalists made in the form of conditional statements that by rule get dismissed by the prosecutor’s office, such threats made against the President end up in court and the perpetrators get sanctioned. The President was never required to give oral testimony in the proceedings, while that was mandatory for journalists. For the criminal offence of endangerment of the safety of journalists, no prison sentence to be served in prison facilities was ever imposed. However, this was not the case in the proceedings for protecting the safety of political officials – the President, members of Parliament and members of Government.
In this report, we observed the application of the principle of opportunity in the cases of attacks against journalists. As far as this instrument is concerned, we have also noticed an unequal treatment between the injured parties: obligations imposed on a person making threats against the editor of the pro-government tabloid absolutely exceed the obligations imposed on the perpetrators in the cases of journalists as the injured parties.
Regarding the media disputes in the cases of hate speech, protection of minors, ensuring the dignity of the victims of violence and protecting honour and reputation, the second regular report includes the review of cases against the media outlets that rarely violate the Serbian Journalists’ Code, as established by the Press Council, i.e. the media outlets that mostly professionally do their job. The analysis of the available cases demonstrated that the media outlets rarely violating the Code are much less sued than the media outlets that are frequent violators. The lawsuits against the media outlets acting professionally in the observed period were not massive and turned out unsuccessful as regards the plaintiffs – less than a half of claims were accepted, only partially.
However, in 2021, we have noticed a significant change since the lawsuits assumed to be so-called SLAPPs – strategic lawsuits against public participation have appeared. The analysis draws attention to some of the legal and practical possibilities of solving the problem of SLAPP suits against the media outlets in the domestic judicial system.
The authors of this analysis are Vida Petrović Škero, Kruna Savović, Nataša Jovanović, Ana Zdravković and Nataša Stojadinović.
The analysis Freedom of Expression before the Court is available on this link.