ZAGREB, November 17, 2018 – The Croatian Journalists Association (HND) expressed deep concern about a Split Municipal Court ruling ordering the Jutarnji List daily to pay Split County Court judge Neven Cambi 50,000 kuna in compensation for non-pecuniary damage in the form of mental anguish the judge said he had suffered due to an interview published by the daily in November 2017, in which he was not even mentioned.
The interview in question was an authorised interview with MOST party MP Nikola Grmoja in which Grmoja spoke, among other things, about the situation in the judiciary, describing the State Judicial Council (DSV) as a “source of corruption” but without naming any DSV member specifically.
Regardless of that, the judge brought a civil action against the daily and won the case, saying that claims in the interview referred specifically to him and were published with the sole aim of depicting him as a bad person promoting unlawfulness and as a corrupt judge.
The HND said in its statement that it had been warning for years about the intolerable practice of prosecuting media for publishing authorised interviews as well as about the harmful practice of awarding high damages in cases when judges sue reporters for defamation, on which the European Court of Human Rights gave its opinion a few days ago.
In the case of the newspaper publishing company Narodni List d.d. versus Croatia, the ECHR on November 8 ruled that by ordering the company to pay judge Boris Babić 50,000 kuna in compensation for mental anguish Croatian courts had violated Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees the freedom of expression.
The ECHR advised Croatian courts that damages awarded for mental anguish caused by the publishing of information must be proportionate to the actual damage suffered.
Excessive damages have a freezing effect and can seriously restrict an open debate on issues of public interest, the HND said.
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