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Croatia4 November 2005

Journalist gets five-month suspended jail sentence for libel

Reporters Without Borders today deplored a five-month suspended prison sentence for libel passed on journalist and writer Predrag Matvejevic by a Zagreb court on 2 November and warned that Croatian law “still does not allow journalists to work freely without risk of prison,” even though Croatia was negotiating to join the European Union in 2007. It called for the press law to be changed at once.

“This is the third time in a year that a journalist in Croatia has been given a prison sentence for a press offence,” it said. The offending article, headed “Our Taliban,” appeared in the daily paper Jutarnji list on 10 November 2001. The prison sentence was suspended for two years.

In the article, Matvejevic had openly criticised the political associates of former President Franjo Tudjman, especially the writers who, in the 1990s, had deliberately stirred up racial hatred between Croats and Bosnians.

He had suggested setting up an ethics committee to consider the role played by these writers, whom he called “political puppets,” “warmongers” and “Taliban.” He singled out Mile Pesorda, who subsequently brought the libel suit against him.

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