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Croatia16 November 2004

New prison sentence for defamation

A court in Split, southern Croatia sentenced Vladimir Matijanic of the weekly Feral Tribune to a suspended three-month prison sentence on 11 November for defaming footballer Igor Stimac, suspected of involvement in criminal activities.

Reacting to this second prison sentence for a press offence since Croatia became an official candidate for EU membership, Reporters Without Borders said it was a serious setback to the progress the country had made in press freedom over the past few years.

"Under recommendations from the UN and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), press offences should not be punished by prison terms," the worldwide press freedom organisation pointed out.

Matijanic wrote a series of articles about criminal activity at the beginning of the 1990s in which Igor Stimac was apparently implicated. The journalist has said he will appeal.

A court in Split on 12 July 2004 sentenced Ljubica Letinic, a journalist on state TV and radio and correspondent for Reporters Without Borders, to a suspended two-months prison sentence for defamation of local businessman Jozo Parcina. This case is currently being heard by the Split appeal court.




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