Judge Seeks Prison Sentence for Journalists Over Judicial Transparency Database

Judge Dušanka Đorđević (printscreen/KRIK)

In a concerning development for media freedom in Serbia, KRIK, an investigative journalism outlet, faces severe legal challenges that threaten to undermine its operations and set a dangerous precedent for journalistic activities across the region. KRIK is the publisher of SEE Check member Raskrikavanje

High-ranking Serbian judge, Dušanka Đorđević, has initiated two strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPPs) targeting KRIK’s journalist Bojana Pavlović and editor Stevan Dojčinović. These lawsuits are in response to the publication of Judge Đorđević’s profile on KRIK’s online database, “Judge Who Judges,” which aims to enhance transparency within the judiciary by detailing the professional activities of Serbian judges.

Judge Đorđević is seeking 6,500 EUR in damages and has made alarming demands including a two-year ban on practicing journalism for the implicated reporters, and a prison sentence of 10 months. The judge alleges that the portal violated her privacy by listing her name, her role in the Belgrade Court of Appeals, and details about properties she owns with her husband—details that should be public knowledge for someone in a public position.

“We must emphasize here that nothing that could endanger the safety of judges was published in our database, all private data were hidden and every published information was verified and fact-checked. Despite this, the judge claims that we should not have published even her name, so we are now in a position to defend not only our work but also the legal right of journalists to write about those in power,” Jelena Vasić, a project manager at KRIK told SEE Check. 

The legal actions by Judge Đorđević, who herself should be a bulwark against such SLAPP suits, represent a stark attack on press freedom, challenging the right of journalists to report on public officials. This move has sparked significant concern among media professionals and free speech advocates, as it could discourage journalists from fulfilling their role as watchdogs of public institutions.

In response, KRIK is launching a public campaign to raise awareness about these legal threats to freedom of expression and information. The campaign aims to mobilize public support and international advocacy to defend the journalists involved and maintain the integrity of their judicial transparency efforts.

KRIK’s efforts in maintaining the “Judge Who Judges” database have previously earned them international accolades, including the prestigious SIGMA award, highlighting the importance and impact of their work in promoting judicial transparency.

SEE Check already reported on SLAPPs against KRIK in our October 2023 piece on SLAPPs in the region.

SEE Check and KRIK are calling for widespread support from both the public and the international community during this challenging period. If you wish to support KRIK, you can use the hashtag #podrzikrik (#supportKRIK) on social networks or make a donation using this link.

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