A Few Words about the Information Law
The 1998 Serbian Information Law is a draconian statute that gives Serbian authorities great latitude to control and interfere with the press. The Milosevic regime regularly uses the law as a weapon against independent and opposition media.
THE REPUBLIC OF SERBIA
1. BASIC REGULATIONS
Public information is free.
The freedom of public information is inviolable and no one has the right to illegally restrict it or to influence by force the work of public information services.
The court in urgent proceedings rules on violations of public information.
The dissemination of public information is carried out by public media and other public information services.
Public media are the press, radio and television stations and information agencies. The press comprises of newspapers, magazines, reviews and other publications.
Radio and television stations are public media which produce and broadcast radio and television programs.
Information agencies are public media which gather, process and disseminate information to users.
Other sources of public information are press, audio-visual and other forms of produced and distributed information designated for the public.
Public media are free to present facts and stands on everything that is of interest to citizens to be informed of (further in the text referred to as: public interest).
Everyone has the right to be informed on matters of public interest.
A public medium has the obligation to inform the public truthfully, timely and completely.
The publicizing of untruths in public media is deemed to be an abuse of the freedom of public information.
It is forbidden to publicize information gathered in an illegal manner (through use of tapping devices, hidden cameras or other).
State institutions, institutions of territorial autonomy and local self-governments are, under equal conditions, responsible to make available to public media information from their realm of responsibility, except facts and documents proclaimed to be secrets by law or other regulations or acts brought in accordance with the law.
Public information is not liable to censorship. No one should restrict the freedom of public information nor restrict the free flow of ideas and opinions.
No one should in any manner prevent public media from obtaining knowledge of matters of public interest.
No one should in any manner prevent public media from presenting facts and stands of public interest.
All physical and legal entities enjoy the right, under equal conditions, of partaking of public information.
Every monopoly in the field of public information is forbidden. Protection from monopoly is ensured by the Law.
Public information must respect the inviolability of human dignity and the right to a private life by the individual.
A public medium may not publicize or reproduce information, articles or facts which violate the honor and dignity of the individual, or which contain insulting expressions and rude words.
If a public medium publicizes untruthful information which violates the dignity or interest of the legal or physical entity to which the information pertains, or which insults the honor or integrity of the individual, brings out or transmits untruthful statements about his life, knowledge, abilities, or in another manner insults his dignity, that person has the right to file petition with the jurisdictional court for compensation for damages from the founder and/or publisher of the public medium, responsible editor and author of the information.
II. FOUNDATION, REGISTRATION AND TERMINATION OF PUBLIC MEDIA
Public media are freely founded, registered with the authority of state administration responsible for the affairs of information (in the further text referred to as the responsible authority).
Radio and television organizations are founded in accordance with the Law.
Public media may be founded and issued by physical and legal entities, in accordance with the Law.
Foreign physical and legal entities may found and issue public media under conditions determined by federal law.
A public medium is founded through an act of foundation.
The Act of Foundation contains: the name, that is the title and address of the founder and publisher of the public medium; the name of the public medium, the source and means of financing of the public medium, the name of the editor-in-chief and the names of individuals authorized to represent the founder.
The act of foundation sets out the relationship between the founder and the editor-in-chief of the public medium.
The data on public media is registered for the purpose of notation in the register of public media (in the further text referred to as the register).
The following data is enrolled in the register: the title, or rather the personal name and the address of the founder of the public medium, the name and type of the public medium, the source and means of financing, the personal name and residence of the editor-in-chief, or rather the name of the person authorized to represent the founder of the public medium.
For the press, along with the information outlined in paragraph 2. of this article, enrolled also are the information on of the title and seat of the publisher and printing press.
For enrolling programs of radio, television and information agencies, along with the information outlined in paragraphs 2 and 3 of this article enrolled also are information of appropriate licenses in accordance with the Law.
The responsible authority more precisely proscribes the content of the register.
Two public media of the same name may not be enrolled in the register.
A public medium may be issued or transmitted after enrollment in the register.
The application for enrollment in the register of public media is submitted by the entity authorized to represent the founder of the public medium.
The application for enrollment in the register is accompanied by proof of the facts enrolled in the register.
Supplements to the application for enrollment in the register are as follows:
1) proof of the identity of the founder of the public medium;
2) the foundation act of the public medium;
3) proof of the identity of the editor-in-chief of the public medium;
4) proof of the identity of the publisher of the public medium;
5) proof of the license for operation of radio and television stations or information agencies and other information regarding licenses in accordance with the law.
Bylaws cannot order the submission of additional supplements with the application for enrollment in the register.
The responsible authority is obliged to bring a decision within a deadline of 15 days from the submission of the application.
If the responsible authority does not bring a decision within 15 days regarding the enrollment or denial of enrollment within the specified deadline, enrollment will be considered executed.
If the application does not contain all the required supplements, the responsible authority will order the submitter of the application to submit the required supplements within a reasonable deadline, which cannot be shorter than 15 days.
If the submitter of the application fails to comply in accordance with paragraph 1. of this article within the specified deadline, the responsible authority will reject the application with a decision.
The decision to reject enrollment is final.
The founder of the public medium is responsible for notifying the responsible authority of every change to the information enrolled in the register within a period of seven days of the change, in order to enroll the change in the register.
The authority may order the founder to submit information regarding the changes, within a period that cannot be shorter than seven days.
If the founder within the additional deadline does not notify of the changes of information enrolled in the register, the responsible authority is authorized to determine the changes and execute their enrollment.
The decision regarding the change of information are delivered to the founder and editor-in-chief of the public medium.
The responsible authority strikes a public medium from the register:
1) if the founder of the public medium brings a decision to terminate the operation of the public medium;
2) if the founder of the public medium ceases to exist, and the founder's rights are not transferred to another founder;
3) if the public medium is not issued or broadcast for more than six months in continuity.
The responsible authority is obliged to deliver the decision for the striking of the public medium from the register to the founder of the public medium that is being stricken from the register.
The decision to strike a public medium from the register is final.
If the responsible authority determines that the application or its supplements contain incorrect information, it will bring a decision to void the enrollment in the register.
The decision to void enrollment in the register is final.
The public medium ceases operation upon the enactment of the decision to void enrollment in the register.
III. ISSUING PUBLIC MEDIA
The publisher of the public medium is a legal entity that issues the public medium and to that end provides conditions for issuing or broadcasting the program of the public medium.
If the founder is not at the same time the publisher of the public medium, mutual rights, obligations and responsibility between the founder and the publisher are determined in a separate contract.
All copies of the press must have marked on them: the name or title and address of the founder, publisher and printing press, the name and surname of the editor-in-chief, as well as the place and year of printing or copying.
Radio and television programs, at the start and end of broadcast must be marked with: the name of the radio and television organization, the name of the program and name and surname of the editor-in-chief.
A printer may print and copy newspapers, magazines, reviews and other publications only after obtaining evidence of their enrollment in the register of public media.
The printer or publisher of published material is obliged to, immediately after printing, deliver three copies to the responsible public attorney, the responsible authority and the National Library of Serbia.
The public medium cannot in total or partially transmit or retransmit with a delay radio and television broadcasts of a political-propaganda nature in the Serbian language or languages of the national minorities in the Republic of Serbia from foreign broadcast organizations founded by foreign governments or their organizations except those programs being transmitted or retransmitted with a delay on the basis of reciprocity determined by an inter-state agreement.
When information is being taken over from a domestic or foreign public medium, the media source from which the information was taken must be clearly marked.
IV. RESPONSIBILITY AND OBLIGATIONS IN PUBLIC INFORMATION
The public medium has a responsible editor.
The public medium may have individuals responsible editors for individual issues or columns, that is individual radio and television programs.
The author of the text, radio and television show or segment, responsible editor, publisher/broadcaster and founder are responsible for the truthfulness of the presented or issued information.
It is forbidden to again release information which an effective court decision has determined as a criminal act, except when publicizing an effective court decision by order of the court.
V. KEEPING AN AUDIO AND VIDEO RECORDING AND ACCESS TO THE RECORDING
The broadcast public medium is obliged to keep an audio and video recording of information from daily shows for at least 15 days from the date of broadcast or 30 days from the date of broadcasting information in other shows.
If a person who has the right from Articles 38, 41, and 55 of this Law, informs the broadcast public medium that they will seek fulfillment of their rights by filing petition in court, the audio and video recording must be kept for a period of 30 days past the deadline for filing the petition or until the court case has ended with an effective legal decision.
The broadcast public medium is obliged to provide access to audio and video recordings at the request of persons from Article 33 of this Law within the deadline set by the Article, without delay or compensation.
The public medium in writing informs the person making a request for access to audio or video recordings as to the place and time when such access will executed.
Access is executed during the business hours and on the business premises of the public medium.
The public medium is obliged to set aside at least three sessions to the person from Paragraph 1 of the Article for execution of access, with breaks between sessions not being under 24 hours.
VI. ISSUING ANNOUNCEMENTS OF AN EMERGENCY NATURE
The responsible editor of the public medium is obliged, upon a request from a state organ, to without delay or editing issue an announcement regarding facts the issuing of which is of an emergency mature, which pertain to danger to the lives and to the health of the people, their property or defense and security.
The responsible editor of the public medium is obliged, without compensation, to issue a reply to information issued which serves to augment facts and data in an issued information.
The reply cannot be longer then the issued information.
The reply must be issued without changes or editions, on the same page of press, that is in the same radio and television broadcast in which the information was issued to which the reply pertains, in the first, or the second next issue of press at the latest, or in the first, or at the latest in the second next radio and television broadcast after the receipt of the reply.
It is not permissible to at the same time issue a commentary of the reply to the issued information.
If the responsible editor of the public medium refuses to issue the reply, or if a commentary of the reply is issued at the same time, the issuer of the reply has the right to bring a legal complaint against the responsible editor of the public medium before the jurisdictional court in the place of seat or residence of the issuer of the reply.
If it rules in favor of the complaint, the court will order the responsible editor of the public medium to issue the reply as set out in Article 37 of this law.
The jurisdictional court is obliged rule in the case within a deadline of three days.
The responsible editor is obliged to issue without compensation corrections to issued incorrect information which violates someone's rights or interest.
The correction is issued without changes or additions, on the same page of press, or in the same radio and television broadcast in which the information to which is being replied was issued, in the first, or the second next issue of the press at the latest, or in the first and at the latest the second next broadcast of the radio and television program after receipt of the correction.
It is not permissible to at the same time issue a commentary of the correction of the issued information.
The responsible editor is not obliged to issue a correction:
1) if the correction does not pertain to the information to which a correction is being sought, or if it does not contain real data in relation with the statements set forth in the information;
2) if the correction denies statements from the issued information which have been determined to be true by an executed act of the responsible authority;
3) if the correction was not signed by an authorized person, or if an individual, as the issuer of the correction, did not sign the correction and supplemented this with personal identification number and address of residence;
4) if the correction is inconsistently longer than the information to which it pertains, and the issuer of the correction rejects the offer of the public medium to shorten the correction.
If the editor of the public medium refuses to issue the correction to an issued incorrect information which violates anyone's right or interest, or does not issue it in the manner and within the deadline proscribed by this act, or if at the same time issues a commentary of the correction, the issuer of the correction has the right to bring a legal complaint against the responsible editor of the public medium before the jurisdictional court under whose jurisdiction is the seat or residence of the issuer of the correction.
If the court rules in favor of the complaint from Paragraph 1 of this Article, it will rule to order the responsible editor of the public medium to issue the correction in the manner determined in Article 39
of this Law.
The jurisdictional court is obliged to rule in the case within a deadline of three days.
VIII. PREVENTION OF DISTRIBUTION OF PRESS AND CIRCULATION OF INFORMATION IN PUBLIC MEDIA AND OTHER MEANS OF PUBLIC INFORMATION
Distribution of press and other means of public information can be prevented only with a court order if it has been determined that it calls for the overthrow by force of the constitutional order, jeopardizes the territorial integrity of the Republic of Serbia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, violates guaranteed freedoms and rights of Man and the citizen, or stirs national, racial or religious intolerance and hatred.
The responsible public prosecutor will propose the adoption of an order for the temporary prevention of distribution of the press and other means of public information if it is determined that there exists a basis for initiating criminal proceedings for a criminal act which is prosecuted in accordance with official duty.
The order for temporary prevention of distribution of the press and other means of public information is brought by the jurisdictional court upon the petition of the responsible public prosecutor within a deadline of six hours from the receipt of the petition.
The jurisdictional court is obliged to immediately deliver the order on the temporary prevention of distribution of the press or other means of public information to the founder, or the publisher or printers with an order not to distribute the press, or spread information by other means, until the execution of the court decision.
The court orders the jurisdictional authority for internal affairs to seize and deliver to the court and seal all copies of the press or other means of public information.
Upon the request of the jurisdictional public prosecutor for preventing the distribution of press and other means of public information (in the further text referred to as: the petition ), the court will hold a hearing within a deadline of three days from the day of receipt of the petition.
In such a petitioned case the court may hold hearings and make a decision even if the invited parties fail to appear at the hearing, of which the parties will be dully warned in the invitation.
If the court rejects the petition or annuls the decision of temporary prevention of distribution of the press or other means of public information, it will order all samples of the press or other means of public information that were seized or sealed to be returned or unsealed within a deadline of 12 hours.
A petition from the public prosecutor against the decision of the court from Paragraph 1 of this Article does not postpone the execution of the order.
If the court rejects the proposal, the damaged party has the right to compensation for damages because of an unfounded temporary ban, which it realizes before the jurisdictional court in legal proceedings.
The court will rule in the case and make its decision public immediately after the completion of the hearing.
The decision is issued in written form and its certified transcript is delivered to the parties involved in the case within three days of the date of issue.
The parties in the case may lodge a complaint against the decision of the first-degree court made upon the petition of the public prosecutor to the jurisdictional second degree court within three days of the receipt of the transcript of the decision.
An appeal is not delivered to the reply.
The allowed and timely appeal together with all records, the first-degree court will deliver to the second degree court within a deadline of two days of the receipt of the appeal.
The second-degree court may call and hear the parties.
The second-degree court is obliged to decision the appeal within a deadline of three days from the date of receipt of the appeal with records.
An appeal is not allowed against the decision of the second-degree court.
The letter of the Law regulating criminal proceedings is applied appropriately in the case petitioned, unless this Law determines otherwise.
The articles of this Law regarding the ban on distribution of the press and other means of public information and the proceedings are implemented appropriately to radio and television broadcasts, as well as to information transmitted by news agencies.
IX. INFORMATION REGARDING THE OUTCOME OF A CRIMINAL CASE
If a public medium has publicized that a criminal proceeding has been initiated against a person, that person has the right, once the proceeding has run to completion, to demand that the responsible editor publicize the information of the legally executed discontinuance of the proceedings, the rejection of the accusation(s) or clearing of charges.
The application is made to the responsible editor within a deadline of 60 days from the day of the legal execution for discontinuance, or ending of the criminal proceedings.
The information is publicized in the first issue or broadcast after the receipt of the application for its publicizing.
The responsible editor is not obliged to publicize information or part of the information from Article 51 of this Law:
1) if the information contains opinions and claims regarding facts that did not appear in the initial information or if part of the information in untrue;
2) if the content of the information or part of the information is such that it raises founded suspicion that its publicizing would invoke a ban on the distribution of the press or broadcasting information through other public media, a criminal or felonies responsibility, or civil right responsibility towards third parties.
X. THE RIGHTS OF PARTIES TO WHICH INFORMATION PERTAINS
A written record (letter, diary, notes, digital recording and similar), recording of likeness (photograph, drawn, film, video, digital and similar) and voice recording (magnetic, gramophone, digital and similar) of a personal nature (in the further text referred to as: personal recording), regardless of the technology with which it was made or with which it can be reproduced, may not be publicized without the consent of the person whose words, likeness or voice it contains, if it is possible to determine who the person is as a result of publicizing.
Permission is also needed for direct broadcast of likeness or voice (by way of television, radio and other).
Personal recordings may not be publicized without the consent of the of the party for which they were meant or the party to which they pertain, if the publicizing would violate the right to privacy or other rights of that person.
If the party from Articles 55 and 56 of this Law is deceased, consent is granted by the heirs, the legal entity of which the deceased was a party to (member, official, employee) when the personal recording
concerns his involvement with the legal entity, other persons whose memories of the deceased could be violated by publicizing the personal recording, as well as if the parties designated for such a task are deceased.
Termination of the legal entity does not represent termination of the legal participant of the legal entity which the recording concerns personally.
It is considered that a written recording, recording of likeness and recording of voice publicized without consent, if inspection of written recording has been executed, or the recording of likeness and recording of voice were made in an unallowable manner.
Consent given for a single publicizing, for a determined manner of publicizing, or publicizing for a certain aim, does not constitute consent for repeated publicizing, for publicizing in a different manner, or for publicizing with different aims.
If the person has reserved the right to revoke consent, with revocation the consent is terminated.
The person has the right to revoke consent even when such a right was not reserved if publicizing would considerably harm his integrity.
In cases from Paragraph 2 of this Article, the damaged party has the right to compensation for damages caused by the revocation of consent.
XI. FINANCIAL COMPENSATION FOR DAMAGES
When a public medium issues untruthful information which violates the reputation or interest of a legal or physical entity to which the information pertains, or which insults the honor or integrity of the individual, makes or transmits untruthful statements regarding his life, knowledge or abilities, or in a different manner insults his dignity, that legal or physical entity has the right to sue with the jurisdictional court for compensation of damages against the founder, publisher of the public medium, the responsible editor and author of the information.
The author of the information is responsible for the damages caused by the publicizing of the untruth, incomplete and other information the issuing of which is not allowed, if he proves that the damages were not caused by his negligence.
The author, responsible editor, publisher and founder are not responsible for damages or incomplete information loyally transmitted from a public parliamentary debate or public debate in a legislative committee or the material from a state agency or if it was issued upon a request of the jurisdictional state agency as an announcement.
In legal proceedings from Article 61, the court decides in urgent procedure.
The jurisdictional authority performs administrative supervision over the implementation of this law.
When the jurisdictional authority determines that a public medium does not fulfill the conditions for initiating operations, or continuation of operations, or does not adhere to the law and other regulations in operations, it will warn in writing the public medium and demand the removal of noted inconsistencies, and in cases in which a criminal act has been noted or a felony as envisaged by the law, it will lodge a complaint with the jurisdictional public prosecutor, or a misdemeanor complaint for misdemeanors with the authority responsible for misdemeanors.
XIII. PUNITIVE REGULATIONS
For publicizing information which calls for the overthrow by force of the constitutional order, jeopardizing the territorial integrity and independence of the Republic of Serbia and the federal Republic of Yugoslavia, violating guaranteed freedoms and rights of Man and the citizen, or causing national, racial or religious intolerance or hatred (Article 42), punished for the misdemeanor will be:
1) the founder and publisher - with a fine of 400,000.00 to 800,000.00 new dinars;
2) the party responsible to the founder and publisher and the editor-in-chief - with a fine of 100,000.00 to 400,000.00 new dinars.
For transmitting and re-transmitting radio and television programs of foreign broadcasting organizations in violation of Article 27 of this law, punished for the misdemeanor will be:
1) the founder and the publisher - with a fine of 250,000.00 to 500,000.00 new dinars;
2) the responsible editor and the party responsible to the founder and publisher - with a fine of 50,000.00 to 150,000.00 new dinars.