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BDK Advokati Succesful for Serbian Journalist in Defamation Case

BDK Advokati Succesful for Serbian Journalist in Defamation Case

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BDK Advokati has represented journalist Slobodan Georgiev against the publisher and the editor-in-chief of the Informer, a daily Serbian newspaper.

On April 12, 2018, the Belgrade Court of Appeals declared that the text and photography published by the Informer violated Georgiev's right to dignity, and required that both defendants to pay non-economic damages for mental distress to Georgiev, and that the editor-in-chief publish the first-instance court's judgment.

According to BDK, on January 15, 2015, the Informer "published a cover page headline and a two-page article using strong words against BIRN, a regional non-governmental organization which creates and publishes media contents, and Slobodan Georgiev, BIRN's editor. The Informer claimed that BIRN 'attempted to steal 23.2 million euros from the pockets of the citizens of Serbia, that 'the journalistic mafia on behalf of EU racketeers throughout Serbia,' and that 'BIRN resorts to blackmailing, so that a company from the EU can get the budget money.' The cover page and the article in the Informer contained photos of Georgiev, whom the newspaper accused of 'lying with a license of the EU' and called BIRN's editor 'a boss of journalistic mafia.' The invectives were in response to a BIRN article criticizing the government over its handling of a public tender for draining a flooded coal mine."

BDK reports that the court found that the allegations in which Georgiev was associated with "mafia" and accused of racketeering, blackmailing, and stealing millions of euros lacked any factual basis and therefore did not reach the level of permissible value judgments. According to the firm "the judgment also clarifies that even though the article in the Informer mainly referred to BIRN as an organization, Georgiev had standing to sue because the Informer used Georgiev’s photos and made an equation between the activities of BIRN, on the one hand, and the activities of Georgiev, whom the Informer called BIRN's boss, on the other hand."

According to BDK Advokati, "the decision is a reminder that newspapers and their editors are obliged to refrain from accusing individuals in the absence of facts to support the allegations. By narrowing the space for false accusations and unfounded value judgments, the judgment contributes to improvement of the quality of information available to the public.