The Higher Court in Belgrade has issued today a first-instance judgment finding Dragan Vučićević, editor of the Informer Daily, guilty of violation of prohibition of hate speech in a lawsuit filed by the Youth Initiative for Human Rights.

YIHR hopes that this judgment will represent a turning point not only in judicial practice, but also in terms of change of public perception of those who are spreading hatred and inspire violence. Court decisions are the foundation of the state of law, but an immediate and efficient condemnation from the public is necessary, too. Only in that way our society would clearly show that it is not on the side of those spreading hatred, intolerance and lies, and thus build resistance, immunity – and never again allow such level of hatred which had resulted in violence, wars and tragedies in the past.

Last year, on February 1, the Informer Daily published an article titled “War on Foreign Mercenaries” and the lede stating “Serbian Government must apply laws that are in force in the USA and ban the work of NGO agents receiving millions of euros from the West to incite conflicts, divisions and chaos in the country” and “thus once and for all get in the way of organizations such as Soros-Shiptar-Fascist Youth Initiative for Human Rights.” Further in the article it is also stated that “Western NGOs in Serbia are foreign mercenaries working in the interest of their financiers, and very often contrary to the interests of Serbia. For this reason they are traitors of their country….

The court has properly characterized this as a hate speech, rejecting disgraceful argumentation of the defence counsel that qualifying someone as “a traitor” or “fascist organisation” are the elements of style.

YIHR reminds that only a few days before this article, within the same tabloid campaign, far right group “Alternative”, composed of former members of neo-Nazi groups and volunteers from the war in Ukraine, pasted the messages of hatred on the door of the YIHR office and in the entire building in which it is located, thus expressing clear and open threat to the security of YIHR activists and staff. YIHR has no knowledge of possible investigation, misdemeanour charges or indictment against persons recorded spreading threats on CCTV. The Higher Court in Belgrade mentioned this event in its judgment, although it did not link it directly to the article published in the Informer, but it still found that: “it turns out from the very content of the posters placed on the front door of the office of the Youth Initiative for Human Rights on the said occasions, that statements such as “Soros-Shiptar-fascist organisation”, “traitors” and “foreign mercenaries” represent a reason for hate, intolerance and discrimination, and even violence in part of our society.”

In the context of current discussion in our public about pressures on court by media and civil society representatives, YIHR calls on everyone to express public and clear support to this judgement, although it is not final yet, because this do not amount to any forbidden pressure on court, but to the expression of an attitude and opinion of the public and maintaining the awareness of this society which must, on every possible occasion, clearly and openly state that it is against any hatred, against impunity and against the glorification of criminals. 

Full judgment in Serbian language available here.