Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Croatian Journalist Guilty of Contempt

(TU No 466, 1-Sep-06)
He was fined 20,000 euro for revealing the identity of a protected witness and publishing parts of his testimony in November and December 2000.

Jovic, who had faced up to seven years’ imprisonment as well as a fine of 100,000 euro, waived his right to appear at the judgment on August 30, and was represented by his defence counsel Kresimir Krsnik.

Jovic announced to the Croatian news agency HINA that he plans to appeal the decision.

"It is an absurdity from the point of view of law and common sense, from the indictment to the judgement," he said.

At his one-day hearing on July 11 this year, Jovic admitted publishing the identity and excerpts of the closed testimony of Stjepan Mesic, the current president of Croatia, who had testified as a protected witness in the war crimes trial of the Bosnian Croat commander Tihomir Blaskic.

But he said that after seeking legal advice, he was still “not certain” that the tribunal’s cease and desist order, issued on December 1, was legally binding.

Presiding judge Patrick Robinson dismissed this defence, saying “an error of law is no answer to this charge”.

Robinson said that Jovic had treated the tribunal "with utter disregard” and that his actions

“stymied the tribunal's ability to safeguard the evidence of a protected witness and risked undermining confidence in the tribunal's ability to grant effective protective measures".

Rejecting the defence claim that Jovic was exercising freedom of the press in reporting a matter of public interest, the judge upheld the right of the tribunal to restrict press freedom where necessary.

“It’s not for individuals…to choose to publish information in defiance of such orders on the basis of their own assessment of the public interest of that information,” he said.

The fact that the Blaskic trial chamber had concluded at the time of publication was dismissed by the judge as “irrelevant” as protected measures for witnesses continue after conclusion of trial.

The judge noted that Mesic’s public admission that he testified as a witness in the Blaskic trial was a mitigating factor.

But he said that Jovic’s acts had been “particularly egregious”.

Judge Robinson added that he had “compounded this contempt” by continuing to publish the testimony across 22 editions, “while boasting that the transcript was secret”.

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