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Croatia13 May 2009

Interior minister fails again to support charges against journalist

Reporters Without Borders condemns a court decision to continue investigating the charge of “disseminating information likely to upset the population” under article 322/1 of the criminal code that was brought against journalist Zeljko Peratovic in January at the behest at interior minister Tomislav Karamarko. It carries a maximum sentence of a year in prison as well as a possible fine.

Karamarko initiated the case against Peratovic because of allegations he made in two blogs, and, accusing Karamarko of obstructing the investigation into the death of Milan Levar, a witness under the protection of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), who was killed by a car bomb in Gospic in August 2000.

Karamarko failed to produce any legally sound evidence against Peratovic when he was initially questioned in court. A second hearing was held in the case on 11 May at which the minister was given another chance. He brought several aides and close associates along to testify but he again failed to support the charge.

“It is high time to close this case, which has no foundation,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The charges under article 322/1 are inconsistent and should be dismissed. The very concept of ‘information likely to upset the population’ is based on an obsolete idea of free expression.

“Despite being given another opportunity at this second hearing, the interior minister still clearly lacks the means to support his allegations. His ties to those who were summoned to testify highlight the lack of impartiality in this case. Is the population that is supposedly ‘upset’ by Peratovic’s information limited to these five people, all relatives of the minister or members of the intelligence agency he used to head ?”

Reporters Without Borders added : “We urge the judicial authorities in charge of this case to dismiss all the charges against Peratovic.”

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