The highest court in Serbia, the Supreme Court of Cassation, has overturned a verdict confirming that weekly NIN – a publication that’s critical of the authorities – did not damaged the honour and defame the character of interior minister and senior official of the ruling Serbian Progressive Party, Nebojša Stefanović.
The Minister sued NIN, one of its journalists and the publication’s editor-in-chief over an article with the headline “Nebojša Stefanović, chief phantom from Savamala”, which was published on 16th June 2016.
Savamala is the Belgrade neighbourhood where unknown masked individuals demolished a number of existing structures in April 2016, thereby clearing the area for the construction of the controversial Belgrade Waterfront project, which is the result of an agreement signed between Serbia’s state leadership and an investor from the United Arab Emirates. The confirming of this project prompted mass street demonstrations in Belgrade, and to this day there has been no revealing of the details of the contract that saw the State grant construction rights under favourable terms for the most elite construction site in the Serbian capital to a private investor.
The defendants were initially found guilty and ordered to pay the minister around 2,500 euros. However, the Court of Appeal subsequently overturned the verdict and quashed the demand that the minister receive compensation.
A group of journalists’ and media associations consider the decision of the Supreme Court of Cassation as being “very troubling and brought under political pressure”, while NIN editor-in-chief Milan Ćulibrk announced that the weekly’s editorial department would lodge an appeal with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
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