NIN weekly to compensate Serbian Interior Minister for defamation

A Belgrade court has ordered the weekly NIN to compensate Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic for defaming him in an article about the mysterious demolitions in Belgrade’s Savamala district.

The Higher Court in Belgrade has found the weekly newspaper NIN guilty of defaming Serbian Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic and has ordered it to pay him 300,000 dinars [2,437 euros] in compensation, media reported on Wednesday.

Editor-in-chief Milan Culibrk confirmed to N1 TV that the magazine will appeal against the sentence.

If necessary, Culibrk said, the paper would appeal to Serbia’s Constitutional Court or even to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

Stefanovic sought compensation over an article that said he should take the blame for controversial demolitions in the Savamala district of Belgrade.

It accused Stefanovic of being responsible for the failure of the Interior Ministry and the police to respond to public complaints during the nocturnal demolitions carried out by masked men in the Savamala district in April last year.

The minister sued NIN journalist Sandra Petrusic, editor-in-chief Milan Culibrk and the weekly news magazine itself.

In his lawsuit, which he filed as a private individual, Stefanovic claimed the article published on the front page of NIN under the title “Nebojsa Stefanovic, Phantom of Savamala”, damaged his personal and professional honour and his reputation.

He also claimed that the journalist and editor Culibrk had violated the presumption of innocence by publishing false information that was not proved in the story, thus breaching the law on public information and contravening the public interest.

“I do not dispute the right to thought and to expression of opinions but the text said I directly assisted in the commission of the offence, which is in itself a criminal offence,” Stefanovic said at the hearing on 29th November.

Culibrk said the report, published in June, was not intended to slur anyone but to urge the authorities to take responsibility for failing to resolve the case.

Patrusic insisted that the article did not suggest that Stefanovic had demolished the buildings in Savamala but pointed out that he had gone “missing” from the media when the issue of the demolitions arose.

The article said the demolitions involved the cooperation of state institutions and would not have been possible without the “knowledge and help” of the Interior Minister, who is responsible for the police.

The demolitions were seen as a move by the authorities to clear the ground quickly for the Belgrade Waterfront project, which civic groups oppose.

(Balkan Insight, BIRN, 04.01.2017)


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