European Journalists Back Protest Petition as Journalists Face Secret Trial in Serbia

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its European group, the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) today expressed their outrage after two journalists were accused of disclosing state secrets and face secret trial in Serbia. Jelena Spasic and Milorad Bojovic of Nacionalni gradjanski newspaper have been charged with publishing information deemed classified but journalists dismiss the claim as the controversial material had  been obtained though fair means.

"These journalists are being made scapegoats as there is no evidence of law breaking and charges against them are unconscionable," said Jim Boumelha, IFJ President. "The authorities are resorting to secret trials to shield from responsibility those who failed to protect official documents under their care."

According to IFJ affiliates in Serbia, the UNS and IJAS, the prosecuting authorities have brought charges against Jelena and her editor Milorad after the newspaper published an article quoting a government paper on the country's military combat readiness as well as the capacity to handle natural disasters. Journalists accessed the information after the document which had been submitted to Parliament was left lying around the building.

The IFJ affiliates say they had received assurances from the Serbian Ombudsman that the journalist had done nothing wrong and no action would be taken against the newspaper. The ombudsman has criticised the charges which are being brought by the prosecutor who has requested that the case be heard in closed sessions.

The IFJ and EFJ back their Serbian affiliates who launched a petition to condemn the charges and the proposed secret trials, saying that such a course of action violates their colleagues' fundamental rights.

"We fully support the petition as our colleagues have no case to answer," said Arne König, EFJ President. "The attempt to trial them in secret would be a travesty of justice and contrary to all international norms of due process, including the Council of Europe' standards of dispensing justice. Journalists did their job and published relevant and important information to the public".

The EFJ earlier this year organised its Annual meeting in Belgrade which raised with President Tadic the deteriorating conditions for media freedom in Serbia.

The EFJ represents over 260,000 journalists in 30 countries
For more information contactthe EFJ at +32 2 235.2200