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Croatia15 July 2004

Journalist given two months suspended prison sentence

Reporters Without Borders said it was deeply shocked after a court in Split, southern Croatia, sentenced state TV and radio journalist Ljubica Letinic to a two-month suspended prison term for defamation of a local businessman.

Letinic, who is also a Reporters Without Borders correspondent, had accused Jozo Parcina of corruption during a talk show on the main television channel on 18 March 2002. Her case will now go before the appeal court in Split.

The international press freedom organisation said the sentence conflicted with UN and Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) recommendations that press offences should not be punished with prison sentences.

"As Croatia became an official candidate for European Union membership last month, this sentence goes against all progress in press freedom in the past few years," said the organisation.

In its 2004 annual report, Reporters Without Borders highlighted the fact that Croatia had, with a view to European integration, carried out major but often controversial legislative reform of the media. As a result the law on defamation remains out of line with European and international standards.

The last prison sentence for a press offence was imposed on 23 December 2002 against Ivo Pukanic, former editor of the weekly Nacional, who was sentenced to two months in prison suspended for one year for threatening Ivic Pasalic, a former political advisor to the late President Franjo Tudjman.




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