The criminal offense of insults was deleted from this scandalous draft of the Law on Amendments to the Criminal Code of the Republika Srpska, but the government did not take into account the basic objection of the journalistic community that it does not criminalize defamation. Instead, the drastic reduction of fines for defamation can be interpreted as a kind of concession to the journalistic community.
In the proposal of the Law on Amendments to the Criminal Code, which was sent to the National Assembly of the RS, and which is in possession of the CAPITAL portal, it is said that punishment for insult will remain in the sphere of misdemeanors.
When it comes to defamation, the threatened fines for this criminal offense according to the proposed law range from one thousand to six thousand marks, while the draft law provided for fines of at least 8,000 to even 100,000 KM.
“Whoever states or conveys something untrue about another that may harm their honor or reputation, knowing that what they state or convey is untrue, will be punished with a fine of 1,000 KM to 3,000 KM”, the Draft Law states, while it was suggested for fines to be from 8,000 to 30,000 KM.
The proposal stipulates that the perpetrator, if what is presented or conveyed has led or could lead to serious consequences for the injured party, will be fined from 3,000 KM to 6,000 KM, while the draft provided for draconian fines in the amount of 20,000 to 100,000 KM.
Fines have also been reduced for the criminal offense of Revealing personal and family circumstances, so instead of 10,000 to 120,000 KM, they now amount to 1,000 to 6,000 KM, the same as for defamation.
In addition to the reduction of fines, in Article 208v. which is about this criminal act, a significant part related to public interest was added. In the draft law, Article 208v. it read “Whoever brings out or brings anything from the personal or family life of a person that can harm his honor or reputation, will be fined from 10,000 KM to 40,000 KM”.
According to the Draft law, that article now reads “Whoever brings out or conveys anything from the personal or family life of a person that can harm their honor or reputation, and which is not, nor can represent facts that are of legitimate interest, will be fined from 1,000 to 3,000 KM”.
Journalists go to jail
In addition to the criminalization of defamation, which represents a democratic step back, what remains controversial is Article 156a. which refers to “Unauthorized publication and display of other people’s writings, portraits and recordings”.
That article says: “Whoever publishes or displays a document, portrait, photograph, video recording, film or phonogram of a personal nature, without the consent of the person who compiled the document or to whom the document refers, i.e. without the consent of the person shown in the portrait, photograph , video or film or whose voice is recorded on a phonogram or without the consent of another person whose consent is required by law, and such publication or display had or could have harmful consequences for the personal life of that person, shall be punished by a fine or a penalty imprisonment for up to two years”.
President of the Journalists’ Club Banja Luka, Siniša Vukelić, says that despite the clear position of the domestic media and professional public, which is supported by numerous international organizations, the Government has decided to criminalize defamation.
He says that it is an extremely bad decision and a continuation of the pressure on freedom of speech, emphasizing that the Banja Luka Journalists’ Club, in cooperation with the legal team, will analyze in detail each article of the proposed Bill and come out with its views.
“On the face of it, the fines are a significant reduction and insulting has been dropped as a criminal offence. What we see as a great danger, unrelated to the criminalization of defamation itself, which is still disputed, is represented by the proposed Article 156a. That article foresees that journalists can end up behind bars if they publish an official document, photo or sound and video recording that is indisputably in the public interest and proves crime, nepotism or other illegal activities. “It is very important to introduce the exclusion of illegality in this article if the announcement was made justifiably in the public interest during the execution of the journalist’s call,” Vukelić assesses.