Court rules in favor of Brankica Stankovic and Veran Matic

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(Thinkstock)
(Thinkstock)

Almost thirteen years after airing of TV show Insajder (Insider) on television B92, in which the son of former district attorney in Belgrade Milovan Bozovic was mentioned, Supreme Court of Cassation in Belgrade had judged in favor of Brankica Stanković and VeranMmatić, who were legally represented in the process by Kruna Savović, partner in Živković Samardžić law office.

Program Insider that was aired on December 11, 2006, dealt with the delicate position of district attorneys and the possibilities of exerting illegal pressure on their work. The subject of the legal battle that had lasted for almost 12 years was the issue whether or not it is allowed to publish the following statements: "It turned out that the name of his son (pertaining to the son of the District Attorney in Belgrade, Milovan Bozovic) was also named in the White Book of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, where he was depicted as a man who was in close relations with the organized criminal group that has close ties with Montenegrin mafia".

The lawsuit against Brankica Stanković and Veran Matić was submitted by the son of the then Belgrade District Attorney. Higher Court and the Court of Appeal in Belgrade had taken a diametrically different view on this issue. Higher Court considered that publishing such statement is allowed and in the public interest. In its rationale for making such decision, Higher Court stated that the position of District Attorney is among the most significant positions in the judiciary system, as it has under its auspices the prosecution of the perpetrators that committed the most serious crimes. Any kind of relation of the son of District Attorney with any criminal organization represents information that the public needs to be duly informed of. This court had taken stance that any information that can question the unbiasedness of the work of Distritc Attorney in Belgrade, as well as the data on the potential conflict of interest in the issues that could potentially fall under District Attorney's jurisdiction headed by Mr. Bozovic, are considered to be information that journalists in a democratic society should disclose.

The Court of Appeal, however, while deciding on the appeal, had taken completely different stance, reversing the judgement of the Higher Court in Belgrade, and partly adopting the claim, considering that with publishing such statement, presumption of innocence of the District Attorney has been violated - as he has been connected with organized crime although he was never charged and no criminal proceedings were conducted against him.

The Court of Appeal had taken stance that the author of the program Insider Brankica Stanković hadn't checked on the truthfulness of the published information as operational information of the Ministry of Interior do not represent material evidence that could prove the true nature of certain data.

Supreme Court of Cassation, as final authority, had confirmed the stance of the Higher Court in Belgrade, concluding that published information was verified from three sources that the members of police had really possessed operational information that the son of former District Attorney in Belgrade was closely related to the organized criminal group, that in turn closely cooperated with Montenegrin mafia circles, as well as that Brankica Stanković got this information from the Ministry of Internal Affairs. According to Kruna Savovic, legal representative of the defendants, this verdict is important for a number of reasons, among them one needs to be specially underlined. "Overall court proceeding had lasted longer than it is the case in practise. However, judging by the verdict, I believe that it is important to stress that the court showed that it respects public interest and its right to be dully informed, recognizing in precise wording of journalist Brankica Stanković the respect of the presumption of innocence of the person that is being mentioned in that statement", lawyer Savović concluded.

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