Serbian website Krik.rs, known for the large number of investigative stories and investigative journalism awards, but also as a critic of the government, was sentenced by the High Court in Belgrade for publishing an article listing the lawsuits against its newsroom.
These lawsuits, as described by the Council of Europe, are known as Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP), with the aim to intimidate, bring upon legal fees, or, simply, exhaust the defendants.
The journalists of Krik were convicted by the Belgrade High Court judge Slobodan Keranović, and Krik submitted an appeal to the Court of Appeals in Belgrade.
Keranović, according to the article in Krik, is publicly known for his express judgement against Serbian weekly NIN on the lawsuit of the Internal Affairs Minister at the time, Nebojša Stefanović.
“The judgement clearly indicates that SLAPP-lawsuits have become the main tool of the regime for closing down the few independent media left. Things have gone so far that we cannot even complain publicly that our newsroom is flooded with lawsuits – we have been convicted even for that”, stated the Editor-in-Chief of Krik, Stevan Dojčinović.
The article in Krik was published a year and a half ago. It listed everyone who has sued the newsroom with a comment that the so-called SLAPP-lawsuits were usually initiated by people close to the government, with the sole purpose of silencing journalists. The text, inter alia, mentions that Krik was sued by the Police Chief Commander, Goran Živković, and two of his colleagues from the Police Unit for Witness Protection. After that, all three of them sued Krik again for publishing the fact that it was sued by them.
The Court ruled that the journalists must pay RSD 374 200 (almost €3 200) to the police officers for mental anguish, plus inflicted costs and ordered the part of the article mentioning the lawsuit of the police officers to be deleted.
This is the second judgement against a Serbian medium – a conviction was previously imposed upon an initiated appeal by the Minister of Internal Affairs, Bratislav Gašić.