Dragan J. Vucicevic, editor-in-chief of the daily Informer, has lost the court process against B92 news editor-in-chief Veran Matic.
The first-instance verdict of the Higher Court in Belgrade recently delivered to the parties states that Vucicevic and his private company that publishes Informer are ordered to pay damages to Matic in the amount of RSD 250,000, along with interest, starting from the beginning of February, along with trial costs in the amount of RSD 88,600.
The court also ordered Vucicevic to publish the ruling and his expenses in one of the two next issues of Informer, as well as in the electronic edition of the newspaper published online.
The lawsuit was filed over a series of articles about Matic, published in Informer from August 2014 until the end of January 2015, while during the proceedings, articles published in the same newspaper after the lawsuit had been filed were also discussed. The court found that Vucicevic and Informer had conveyed false information, which, given the context and the absence of good intentions, led to the endangerment of Matic’s credibility as a public figure and longtime journalist and editor.
Regarding the part of the articles that implied that Matic allegedly attempted to, in an underhanded manner, secure for himself at the time the vacant position of the director general of RTS, the court specifically pointed out that Vucicevic and Informer, neither in the articles nor later during the proceedings, provided any witnesses, nor at least indicated in what way, in front of whom, or at what point, Matic allegedly lobbied for this function. The false information was persistently reported, despite Matic repeating several times that he would not be a candidate, that he was not interested in the job, and that he did not even meet the legal requirements for it.
Lawyer Kruna Savovic, who represented Matic, said: “The court found that journalists, including Dragan J. Vucicevic, were free to express their views and opinions, but that when they publish information about concrete phenomena, personalities or events, they are under obligation to check this information with due journalistic diligence. What is particularly important about this judgment is the answer it gives to the question of what the court considers to be due journalistic diligence. This, according to the court, is to respect the professional standards of the journalistic profession and the Code of Journalists of Serbia. And Vucicevic, in this case, as the court found, did not respect the Code and the standards. ”
Matic, who also serves as chairman of the Board of Directors of B92, commented on the verdict to say that the judge very accurately determined the workings of the process of launching false information, disinformation about someone in order to discredit and falsely accuse them, then backing this false news up by “analysts'” opinions – while creating a new reality through frequent repetition.
It is also important to educate media users, and such ruling can help. It is especially important to emphasize the importance of self-regulation because the judge was largely guided, in her determining of the facts, by the Code of Journalists, along with legal regulations, he said.