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News 26 Mar 15

Montenegro Fines 'Informer' Editor For Hate Speech

The editor of the Montenegrin edition of the newspaper Informer, Novak Uskokovic, has been found guilty of publishing racist comments about Albanians in articles about last year's controversial Serbia-Albania football match.

Dusica Tomovic
BIRN
Podgorica

A court in Montenegro on Wednesday found Novak Uskokovic, editor-in-chief of the tabloid newspaper Informer, guilty of "allowing the publication of offensive articles about the Albanians."

Uskokovic, who edits the Montenegrin editions of the Belgrade-based daily, was fined 3,000 euros - the minimum penalty for such offences. The maximum prescribed fine is 10,000 euros.

Judge Jelena Perovic said it was clear that aim of the offending articles was not to objectively report on events but to offend the country's ethnic Albanians.

The Prosecutor's Office indicted Uskokovic of the criminal offence of violating the reputation of minority people last December.

The articles concerned the Serbia-Albania football match held in Belgrade on October 15, 2014, which ended in violence after a drone carrying a map of "Greater Albania" buzzed the pitch.

In its report, the front page of the Montenegrin edition of Informer called the Albanian players "shiptari"- an offensive term.

The same issue used similar language in its reports on a fight that erupted among pupils in a Montenegrin-Albanian high school in the capital, Podgorica, over the football match.

"The defendant... publicly exposed minority people who live in Montenegro to mockery when, in October 2014... he approved disparaging headlines in two newspaper issues," the prosecution said.

Albanian leaders in Montenegro also filed charges against the newspaper for hate speech last November.

After condemnation of its reporting style, Informer issued an apology, claiming that it never intended to offend "citizens of Albanian origin who have lived for centuries in Montenegro".

After the verdict was announced, Uskokovic said he would appeal the verdict and was ready to go before the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

He has previously claimed that a political campaign was being conducted against Informer  and that "someone obviously want to shut down the paper".

Last year, Montenegro's Basic Court twice banned distribution of several editions of Informer containing inflammatory content.

The paper claimed it had proof that the human rights activist, Vanja Calovic, director of the prominent NGO MANS, had had sexual relations with her two dogs.

Albanians make up about 5 per cent of the population of Montenegro.

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