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Croatia18 February 2005

Journalist given two-month suspended sentence for defamation

Reporters Without Borders expressed its indignation after Ljubica Letinic, a journalist on Croatian state television and radio (RTC) and correspondent for the worldwide press freedom organisation, was given a two-month suspended prison sentence.

The sentence, confirmed on 10 February 2005 by the supreme court in the southern city of Split ran "contrary to international standards" the organisation said.

"This sentence highlights unacceptable legislation that allows a journalist to be given a prison term for a press offence, at a time when Croatia is due to open membership talks with the EU on 17 March this year.

"If Zagreb wants to join the European Union in 2007, Croatian journalists should no longer be at risk of being imprisoned simply for doing their job," it said.

The case goes back to 18 March 20002 when Letinic produced a six-minute report, broadcast on the talk show "Latinica" on RTC, in which she alleged corruption against a number of well known figures in Split. These included the city mayor and businessman Jozo Parcina, who reportedly obtained luxury apartments belonging to the local council.

The Split municipal court gave Letinic a two-month suspended prison sentence for defamation of Parcina on 12 July 2004 and she subsequently lodged an appeal.

"I thought the sentence would be upheld on appeal because the municipal court in Split is really problematical. The corruption that I raised in my report also involved the Split municipal court" she told Reporters Without Borders after the appeal verdict.

A journalist with the weekly Feral Tribune, Vladimir Matijanic, was given a suspended three-month prison sentence by the Split municipal court, on 11 November 2004, for defaming footballer Igor Stimac, suspected of involvement in criminal activities.

Croatian law currently allows prison sentences of up to one year for defamation. Article 309 allows a sentence of three years in prison for all insults or criticism that hinder the work of a judge or prosecutor.

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