Vanja Juric Says Court Ban Issued to Portal Needs Thorough Investigation

Lauren Simmonds

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Vanja Juric
Vanja Juric

As Index writes, Vanja Juric, who is currently representing the H-Alter portal (which is the target of the court ban) and is otherwise an expert in media law, commented on the case during Novi Dan (New Day), which kicked up a lot of fuss and saw numerous reactions from the public, the profession and politicians.

On Tuesday, the Municipal Civil Court in Zagreb imposed a temporary measure banning the publication of articles about the director of the Polyclinic for the Protection of Children and Youth on the H-Alter portal. The lawyer representing the portal in this case, Vanja Juric, revealed what their next steps are.

“The appeal procedure is the only possible procedure, and we have a deadline of 8 days. They’re convinced that they did everything right as journalists and will do everything to protect journalists’ freedoms,” she said, adding: “H-Alter is not allowed to publish articles about the Polyclinic or Dr. Buljan Flander, but a journalist working for any other media can continue to report on the subject.”

The court did not seek a statement from the publisher

Vanja Juric pointed out that the judge did not ask the publisher or the journalist to comment:

“Neither the publisher nor the journalist were asked for their comments. The explanation states that this wasn’t done because it wasn’t necessary for the decision to be made. The judge is not obliged to do that, but I think that in such sensitive matters the judge had to assess that it is possible in this procedure, and the portal should be given an opportunity to comment, and then it needs to be seen whether this should be treated as something to be reported.”

When asked if Dr. Gordana Buljan Flander had other methods if she thought that the journalist was belittling or telling lies about her, Juric said:

“This was a bad assessment, a misuse of the institute of an interim measure. According to Croatian media law, there are a number of ways to react in these cases. To my knowledge, the Polyclinic and Buljan Flander responded with requests to correct the information that was published. This was wrong in a number of ways, but the focus should be on what the court does, which is not there to look after the rights of the Polyclinic, but also the rights of all of us. The key is to focus on how such a court decision could have been made at all.”

Vanja Juric believes that this decision cannot survive and that the County Court will need to overturn the decision.

“That said, if it does remain like this, it opens the door to the most serious violations of media freedoms. It isn’t that someone is seeking the removal of a certain text, but that the court is prohibiting any reporting on the professional work of an institution in the future at all, regardless of the circumstances, and regardless of a positive or negative context. That is why this is very dangerous,” she added.

Shocking testimonies…

The story of the work of the Polyclinic came into the public spotlight mainly after Severina’s confession, although about 40 women were included in this series of stories and texts.

“Before all this, I followed the story and when Severina came out with her testimony, I was deeply upset by it. I think it’s commendable that she, as a public figure who has influence, decided to go public with such a personal topic and encourage public debate on topics that are important. When mothers face someone more powerful than themselves during divorce proceedings. Any person who uses their influence in public to draw attention to things like this should be encouraged to do so,” Vanja Juric noted.

The interim measure must be justified within a period of 30 days, and it can only be through a lawsuit, we cannot yet know what exactly it will be, she added.

Juric made sure to emphasis the fact that she truly doesn’t recall any such examples before: “This has set a precedent. There have been attempts at interim measures to request the removal of one or more articles, or to prohibit the publication of a particular story, but a ban on future reporting, something like this has never happened in Croatia, and as far as I know – in the world.”

The lawyer says the story should be investigated to the very end and then we can really reveal how well-founded these damning allegations are:

“The only thing that makes sense now are to check it all. The accusations made by these women, and all the texts are based on serious testimonies, there can be no justification for the authorities not to do anything. The only logical thing is to check everything, everything needs to be clarified to the end. Legal stories such as this can take years. I hope common sense will prevail, that the Polyclinic will see the error of its ways and that it will withdraw the request for an interim measure. I expect if it remains in force and if a court case is initiated, then we’ll be talking about a period of three to five years,” concluded Vanja Juric.

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