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news 30 Nov 12

Serbia Minister Pledges to Decriminalize Libel

Justice Minister says libel and slander must be deleted as criminal offences in order to safeguard the freedom of the media.

Bojana Barlovac

Nikola Selakovic, the Minister of Justice, said changes to the Serbian criminal code will delete slander as a criminal offence.

"Abolition of defamation as a criminal offence is of great importance to strengthening freedom of journalism and media coverage, as well as freedom of expression in Serbia," the minister said on Thursday.

Earlier, the ministry’s working group for changes to the criminal code had said there would be no decriminalisation of libel and defamation, as deletion of those crimes had nothing to do with meeting European justice standards.

Offenders found guilty of slander or defamation in the press, on radio and television or at public meetings under the new law code will now face fines ranging from 100,000 [€880] to a million dinars [€8,800].

For publishing facts about someone's family life that violate their honour and reputation, offenders face up to a year's imprisonment.

In 2011, there were 242 civil procedures against media owner, journalists and editors over published information, mostly involving alleged violations of honour and reputations.

Besides Serbia, Kosovo and Albania have yet to decriminalize libel. Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Macedonia have already done so.

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