HND for striking defamation from penal code

Zagreb, 10.4.2014.- Ministri Vesna Pusiæ i Orsat Miljeniæ i premijer Zoran Milanoviæ tijekom sjednice Vlade Republike Hrvatske. foto FaH/ Denis CERIÆ/ ua

The Croatian Journalists Association (HND) requested that the Justice Ministry and the government strike defamation from a bill of amendments to the Penal Code. Justice Minister Orsat Miljenic said that amendments to the Penal Code regarding defamation were aimed at preventing the abuse of imprecise legal provisions to restrict freedom of opinion and speech.

The code will contain a provision on “grave defamation” to stress that only the gravest violations against honour and reputation will be prosecuted, but the provision will be restricted to cases in which the perpetrator knowingly states an untruth or does not act in the public interest “There is no defamation unless truthfulness is proved,” Miljenic said at a government session at which the amendments were sent to parliament.

If the claims in question are made by journalists or are stated in public discussion, “it goes without saying that there is no crime if it was said in the public interest,” the minister said. “We are setting a very high standard which we believe is in keeping with the current situation in Croatia,” he said. Miljenic recalled that the provision on defamation came into focus “after one sentence pending appeal” against journalist Slavica Lukic. He reiterated that the sentence was not final and that “one should trust the judicial authority to rule in line with the law.”

The HND proposes the decriminalisation of crimes against honour and reputation, including defamation and insult. The bill the government has moved will continue to protect power wielders at the expense of press freedoms and quality journalism, which are essential for every country’s democracy, the HND said in a statement.

The government is due to discuss the bill today, the most important amendment being one referring to defamation. The HND said crimes against honour and reputation were decriminalised not only in Great Britain, but in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia and Macedonia as well.