The Press Council in BiH realized
THE PRESS CONFERENCE
Defamation Lawsuits and Pressures on Media
Sarajevo, Tuesday, December 23rd 2014
The Press Council in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the self-regulatory body for the press and online media, organized the Press Conference for journalists where the data on the pressures on media and journalists through defamation lawsuits will be presented.
The Press Council in BiH has for several years been organizing education for judges in Bosnia and Herzegovina on the topic of practical application of the Law on Protection against Defamation, and compliance with the pre-trial mediation process, through compliance with Article 8 of this Law - “Duty to mitigate the damage”. Compliance with this article of the Law, and using the possibility to submit complaints about the writings of the press and online media to the Press Council in BiH, contributes to the final goal of reducing the number of lawsuits against media and resolving disputes on the mediation level.
Unfortunately, there are an ever bigger number of lawsuits against journalists and media, without firstly resorting to the mediation process and this indicates that Article 8 of the Law on Protection against Defamation is not complied with, while the media are often times forced to pay high fines to compensate for so called “emotional suffering”. Such court rulings seriously threaten the free work of media and free news coverage.
The Press Council in BiH does not contest the filing of lawsuits for defamation, but insists on compliance with the mediation process before resorting to suits against media and journalists, as the Law on Protection against Defamation indicates. It is also necessary to expand the list of court experts who determine the extent of “emotional pain” caused to the plaintiff through media coverage.
The Press Conference was opened by Ljiljana Zurovac, Executive Director of the Press Council in BiH and Mr. Dario Novalic, Chair of the Board of Directors of the Press Council in BiH.
Chair of the Board of Directors of the Press Council in BiH and owner of the magazine “Start”, Mr. Dario Novalic noted that “the plaintiffs are not using the mediation mechanism that is the Press Council in BiH, but they are going directly to the courts instead. The law exists but it is not being enforced. Anyone dissatisfied with the writings of the press and online media needs to try mediation; in the case he or she is satisfied, he or she can turn to the courts; but if he or she is satisfied, that would be the end of the process”.
Ms. Borka Rudic, Secretary General of the Association “BH Journalist”, presented the data from the Help Line for journalists, according the which, in the period 2002 - 2012, there were 700 defamation lawsuits only in Sarajevo’s courts, while there were about 1,000 cases in the other courts of BiH. Ms. Rudic pointed that the “implementation of the Law on Protection against Defamation has turned into the violation of the journalists’ rights to free speech, rights to criticize elected official, rights to use unidentified sources and rights to intrude into private life with the goal of reporting to the public”. She also added that the “courts generally resort to using medical experts instead of experts who understand the right to freedom of expression and that they stray from processing the source of information so that the liability is against the media, which is in contradiction with the practice of the European Court for Human Rights. Also, the burden of providing proof is on the defendant and no on the plaintiff.”
Ms. Vildana Selimbegovic, Editor in Chief of the daily “Oslobodjenje” and Ms. Suzana Mijatovic, Journalist of the magazine “Slobodna Bosna”, presented their experiences and their media’s problems with regards to numerous lawsuits and verdicts for defamation, which endanger the operations of these media. They noted that oftentimes the media are not in the position to collect court costs, even when they win a proceeding, while the court practice breaches Article 10 of the Law on Protection against Defamation, and foresees that “while determining the compensation, the court is required to acknowledge all circumstances of the case, especially all measures the violator has undertaken in order to alleviate the damage, such as: publication of a correction or apology, or retraction of expression of false fact; the fact weather the violator has gained financial benefits due to his expressions or statements, as well as the fact weather the amount of compensation adjudicated would lead to great material difficulties or bankruptcy.” Therefore, “the court must take into account all circumstances and must not endanger the operations of a media. ‘Slobodna Bosna’ had its account blocked three times in the past six months because of this”, said Ms. Mijatovic.
The attendants agreed that it was necessary to insist on the appropriate implementation of Article 8 of the Law on Protection against Defamation, the expansion of the list of court experts from all fields and defining the term emotional suffering, and the manner such suffering is measured. It was concluded that the implementation of the Law on Protection against defamation did not produce the expected results and achieve its goal, why it was adopted, as well as it was necessary to initiate a debate in the international community, seek dialogue with judiciary representatives and accept the practice of the European Court for Human Rights. Members of the Press Council in BiH announced that in this future period they will seek to meet Mr. Milan Tgeltija, President of the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council of BiH.
The Press Clipping of media publications can be read here.
Seminars and Conferences
Website Developed Thanks To Donation By Civil Right Defenders