Bosnia’s Constitutional Court has ruled that Republika Srpska’s public broadcaster RTRS slandered journalist Vladimir Kovacevic in 2018.
Confirming a decision by the lower court, the ruling by Bosnia’s Constitutional Court affirms that RTRS slandered Kovacevic, who was brutally attacked while covering mass protests in Banja Luka in 2018.
The ruling, which comes after an appeal by RTRS and its former editor-in-chief Sinisa Mihailovic, confirms that the public broadcaster slandered Kovacevic.
Kovacevic was attacked after covering a “Justice for David” protest in 2018, which attempted to pressure authorities to resolve the case of the unexplained death of a 21-year-old man in Banja Luka.
Kovacevic welcomed the ruling.
“The decision of the Constitutional Court to reject the appeal of RTRS was the only logical move, because it was a clear question of slander,” he told reporters.
Bosnia’s Constitutional Court said that RTRS “did not take into account the plaintiff’s particularly vulnerable situation due to the attempted murder, nor can it be concluded that they had a ‘sincere intention’ to inform the public about topics of public importance” when publishing the article in question.
Following his attempted murder and after Kovacevic was released for home treatment, RTRS published an article on its website entitled “Creeping coup d’état in Republika Srpska! They don’t want elections, they overthrow the government on the street!”
Among other accusations, the article read that “The latest events regarding the attack on a journalist of the opposition-friendly BN TV and the spontaneous gathering of journalists in front of the Palace of the Republic in Banja Luka further fuel claims that a creeping coup d’état is on the scene.”
“The latest case of an attack on a journalist sympathetic to the opposition serves the purpose of animating wider social strata and calling for defence against the alleged dictatorship of [Bosnian Serb leader Milorad] Dodik and his party,” it added.
Kovacevic sued RTRS in the Basic Court of Banja Luka for injury to his reputation by defamation. The court ruled in his favour, and ruled that RTRS and then-editor Mihailovic jointly owed him 5,000 Bosnian Marks (2,500 euros) in compensation.
Following the verdict, RTRS and Mihailovic appealed to the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina. They claimed that their freedom of expression was being violated, based on the fact that Kovacevic was not directly mentioned in the contested article.
Marko Colic and Nedeljko Dukic were sentenced to five and four years in prison respectively for carrying out the attempted murder on Kovacevic.