Protest march in Banja Luka against the criminalization of defamation – Citizens demand protection of freedom of expression

Sarajevo/Banja Luka, July 18 – Media representatives, activists and numerous citizens gathered this morning in protest at Trg Krajina and held a protest march to the National Assembly of the Republika Srpska (NSRS), where the deputies are today discussing and voting on the introduction of the defamation Criminal Code of the RS.

As the portal SLOBODNO reports, a significant number of journalists, activists and citizens gathered at Trg Krajine in Banja Luka, who called on the representatives of the authorities to think again, to come to their senses and abandon the criminalization of defamation, whose proposal is in front of parliamentarians at the session of the National Assembly of the RS that started this morning.

SLOBODNO states that Siniša Vukelic, president of the Banjaluka Journalists’ Club, addressed the crowd, reminding that Bosnia and Herzegovina was the first in the region in the last two decades thanks to the decriminalization of defamation.

“More than 20 years ago, we abolished the criminal offense of defamation and were the first in the region. Before FBiH. We were proud of that. Now the Serbian government has decided to turn its back on the UN, the Council of Europe, the OSCE, and the European Commission. She told the defenders of human rights and freedoms, journalist associations, citizens’ associations that they don’t care what they say and that they want to protect themselves from the truth. That’s why this is a question of the freedom of every individual here,” said Vukelic.

He warned that, if criminalization is adopted in the RSFSR, tomorrow we can expect that freedom of movement, freedom of education and all other rights we have under the Constitution of the RS will be taken away from us. Statements by government representatives that journalists want freedom of defamation, and that EU countries also criminalize defamation, by deliberately distorting the truth.

Vukelic emphasized, “They deliberately distort the facts. Yes, defamation is in some countries’ criminal law, but we must know that these are countries known for fair trials, judges and prosecutors, which are not controlled by politicians.” They repeat that they reduced the sentences and that we should be satisfied with that, he was never sentenced to us but in a criminal process that can last five years. You can receive dozens of such applications because they will not be paid for by officials and politicians, but by you, from the budget of Srpska. The entire system, the police and the prosecutor’s office will be harnessed at your expense to prove that you defamed a neighbor or an official”.

The president of the Club of Journalists of Banjaluka reiterated that defamation is properly sanctioned by the existing Law on protection against defamation in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Vukelic called on the members of parliament in the NSRS to “not raise their hands for this law and not be remembered as someone who subordinated obedience to the interests of his people.”

After the walk, the participants of the protest remained in front of the NSRS with prominent banners and the messages “Stop the criminalization of defamation” and “Opinion is not a crime!”.

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