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(E) Croatia abolishes prison sentences for defamation
By Nenad N. Bach | Published  07/4/2006 | News | Unrated
(E) Croatia abolishes prison sentences for defamation

Croatia abolishes prison sentences for defamation

Croatia is now the third Southeast European country to abolish criminal punishment for defamation in the past year, following Serbia and Macedonia.

There were several Croatian journalists convicted for defamation in 2004 and 2005. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe negotiated with the government to change the law, by moving defamation from the criminal code to the civil code.

Miklos Haraszti, the OSCE media freedom representative, said the move was an important step toward freer media.

“This change will boost the self-confidence of the press and also improve its professionalism," Haraszti said.


Reporters Without Borders:

OSCE media watchdog praises Croatia's abolition

of prison sentences for defamation

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VIENNA, 29 June 2006 - The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Miklos Haraszti, today commended the Croatian Parliament for adopting amendments to the Criminal Code that abolish imprisonment as a sanction for defamation.

"I welcome Croatia's move to liberate the country's journalists from the fear of imprisonment for their words," Mr Haraszti said. "This will boost the self-confidence of the press, and also improve its professionalism.

"Journalistic ethics can only mature in an environment that allows for an uninhibited and free press. The amendments to the law will also help journalists to contribute to greater transparency in public life."

Both the Representative and the OSCE Mission to Croatia have continuously advocated the decriminalization of defamation. Their co-operation with the Government on defamation and libel has intensified following several convictions of journalists for defamation in 2004 and 2005.

After Serbia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Croatia is the third state since last September to abolish imprisonment as a punishment under its criminal libel law.

"I am pleased that these countries are taking the lead in removing criminal libel laws from their penal codes and letting the civil courts deal with these offences. I hope that all OSCE participating States will follow their example," Mr. Haraszti said.
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