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Relations between Courts and the Media

10 05 2019

Relations between Courts and the Media

On May 10, 2019 in Kragujevac, a roundtable on the topic of relations between courts and the media was held, organized by the Supreme Court of Cassation, Association of Journalists of Serbia (UNS) and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The relationship between these two cornerstones of freedom in all modern, democratic societies based on the rule of law has undergone different stages in the past several decades of the transition process taking place in Serbia, but it was mainly colored by a lack of knowledge and mutual understanding, as well as a less than satisfactory communication. This is one of the starting premises that was identified by the panelists at the roundtable which served as a starting point for subsequent presentations and discussions.

At the beginning of the event, which gathered around 50 representatives of the courts from the Kragujevac appellate seat territory and local media, the participants were addressed by Dubravka Damjanović, Chief Judge of the Kragujevac Appellate Court, Gordana Janković, Head of the OSCE’s Mission in Serbia Media Department, and Vladimir Radmirović, UNS President and Editor-in Chief of the ’Pištaljka’ portal. All speakers emphasized the need for more openness and transparency in courts to both communicate with the public and receive criticism directed by the public and the media. At the same time, media have to be ready to respect the crucial balance that has to exist between the public interest and the right of the public to be informed, on the one hand, and the protection of the court proceedings and the parties’ right to privacy, especially that of the victims and juveniles, as well as the presumption of innocence, on the other hand.

In the second panel, Milena Milović Blagojević, USAID Rule of Law Communications Director, presented the 2018-2022 Communication Strategy for the High Court Council and the Courts which was developed with Project’s support last year, emphasizing the need for establishing the continuous and two-way communication of the courts to the citizens and the media which would rest on the strategic and sustainable approach to the communication in the courts. Journalist Moma Ilić, and Vanja Rodić, Senior Advisor for European Integration and International Projects in the Supreme Court of Cassation, presented the results of the Analysis of the Court Transparency which examined media reporting on the work of the courts and the journalists’ competence in this area.

Topics such as the limits to media commenting on the court proceedings, rules and practice of the European Court of Human Rights, and existing local practices, as well as hate speech and challenges for court practice in cases where journalists are the defendants, were also covered during the roundtable. Supreme Court of Cassation Judge, Katarina Manojlović Andrić, emphasized that journalists can and should criticize court decisions, both in the first instance and final ones, but that such criticism has to take into consideration all limitations and rules of the proceedings and has to be grounded in facts.

Irena Garčević, Belgrade Appellate Court Judge, spoke of the freedom of speech, potential misuse and direct balance between the right of the public to be informed and the justifiability of presenting facts of a case to satisfy the needs of some segments of the society.

The next roundtable will be organized in Nis on June 21, 2019.

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