Nenad Milanovic, chief of cabinet of Belgrade mayor Aleksandar Sapic, filed a defamation lawsuit against BIRN Serbia before the Higher Court in Belgrade, seeking 200.000 dinars (1,705 euros) in damages for mental anguish.
The lawsuit claims his reputation and honour has been damaged by the BIRN article, “Audios Reveal that Sapic’s Chief of Cabinet Offered to Fix Procurement to Kentkart”. The lawsuit states that the article is “full of absolute falsehoods”, but does not elaborate to explain which information Milanovic believes to be incorrect.
“The news published on website birn.rs was very disturbing to the plaintiff because the incriminating expressions used by the defendant were disparaging and have contributed to the damages for the plaintiff’s honour and reputation, especially in the plaintiff’s work environment, and then in the environment in which the plaintiff lives.
“Namely, the plaintiff is very successful in his job, and the insinuations mentioned in the text can have an extremely negative impact on the plaintiff’s reputation at his work and in the private sphere as well”, reads the lawsuit.
The lawsuit is filed against BIRN Serbia and its editor-in-chief Milorad Ivanovic.
Ivanovic says this is the fourth SLAPP lawsuit this year.
“This is forth SLAPP lawsuit filed against our newsroom this year. These lawsuits are not being filed in honest attempt to receive any kind of justice, but to exhaust journalists and newsroom.
“The lawsuit does not deny any fact we have published in the article. Mental anguish of public officials, their reputation and honour, cannot be above the truth,” said I.
So-called SLAPPs aim to drain the target’s financial and psychological resources and chill critical voices, to the detriment of public participation, according to a report on SLAPP lawsuits in Serbia published in 2022 by Article 19, the American Bar Association Centre for Human Rights and the Independent Journalists’ Association of Serbia, NUNS.
Aleksandar Sapic, the mayor of the Serbian capital, has filed two separate defamation lawsuits against BIRN Serbia, its editor and journalists in March, claiming that their reporting damaged his reputation and caused him mental anguish. He is seeking six million Serbian dinars (around 50,000 euros) in damages in each case – a total of around 100,000 euros.
Predrag Koluvija, who is on trial for alleged illicit marijuana production, in February accused BIRN of incorrectly reporting on one of his court hearings and thus damaging his reputation and causing him mental anguish. He is seeking 200,000 dinars (around 1,700 euros) in damages.