Lawsuits against KRIK represent a striking attempt to silence media in Serbia

Case Study

The CASE Coalition has classified two lawsuits lodged by Judge Dušanka Đorđević against Serbian investigative media outlet KRIK as SLAPPs. The judge is seeking both financial compensation but also other penalties such as an occupational ban for KRIK journalists and prison sentences. While KRIK journalists routinely face legal threats due to their investigative work, this case represents an unprecedented attempt to pressure independent media.

Judge of the Court of Appeal in Belgrade, Dušanka Đorđević, and her husband, lawyer Aleksandar Đorđević, have filed two lawsuits – both criminal and civil – against the Crime and Corruption Reporting Network (KRIK), its editor-in-chief Stevan Dojčinović, and journalist Bojana Pavlović, for alleged violations of their privacy rights. 

The lawsuits stem from KRIK’s publication of profiles on Judge Dušanka Đorđević and her husband in the “Judge Who Judges” database, which aims to increase the transparency of the Serbian judiciary. The database, compiled and maintained by KRIK, includes basic information about judges in Serbia, highlights key cases, and reports on their wealth.

In their civil lawsuit, the judge and her husband are asking the court to declare that their privacy rights were violated, to remove their information from the database, and to prevent KRIK from republishing it. If KRIK fails to comply, they could be fined €100 per day. The plaintiffs are also seeking approximately €6,500 in damages and coverage of their legal costs.

Additionally, the judge and her husband have filed a private criminal lawsuit accusing the outlets and two journalists of unauthorised collection of personal data. They are asking for 10-month prison sentences for Dojčinović and Pavlović, and a two-year ban on their professional activities. 

The case risks creating a massive chilling effect on journalists and other public watchdogs if the lawsuits are not dismissed. Given that both plaintiffs are well-known public figures, and no sensitive information such as addresses has been revealed – only information of public interest that is fairly easily accessible – CASE finds the claims highly disproportionate. Instead of seeking rectification of the available data, the judge is aiming for a complete shutdown of the database, which would hinder transparency and risk censorship. Moreover, journalists should not fear imprisonment or professional bans as reprisals for their work in providing society with accurate information on the Serbian judiciary. 

What is particularly concerning is that these lawsuits are initiated by a judge – a figure sworn to uphold the rule of law, not to use the legal system for personal needs. This case highlights an urgent need for clear, robust guidelines for members of the judiciary and lawyers on how to identify SLAPPs and avoid facilitating them, as such actions contradict the fundamental principles of their profession. CASE is due to release a resource on legal ethics that aims to support lawyers and judges in identifying and impeding abusive litigation. 


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