First verdict for hate speech against LGBT population in Serbia – verdict to “Press” daily newspaper after GSA’s claim

Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) wants to inform the public that its Litigation Service submitted first instance verdict of the Belgrade High Court (The Court) which accepted GSA claim against the daily newspaper “Press” Ltd (Press). The Court has established that texts – comments of the readers, published on the website Press online on 2nd July 2009, represents hate speech against LGBT population and that the Press discriminated this population by enabling and allowing those comments to be placed on its web site.

This is the first verdict for hate speech against LGBT population in the history of the judiciary in Serbia and also of great importance because it is one of the first verdicts pronounced on the basis of the Serbian Anti-Discrimination Law.

On July 14, 2009 Gay Straight Alliance has filed a claim against the newspaper “Press” on the basis of the Anti – Discrimination Law and the Law on the Public Information. This media company on the article “I will be a gay icon” (on its online edition Press Online) permitted publication of comments of the readers which have contained hate speech against LGBT population. Any of interested persons/readers could leave a comment on this article, which did about 85 people. The vast majority of comments was contained the most banal insults, calls on murder, slaughtering, threatening to attack on lives and property of LGBT people including for example: “…and I never, really I will never understand these perverse people”; “We have to stop on these way, it is sickness and this should be treated…these should be closed to the ghetto…”; “Comrade Tito, come back to kill all these bastards! Comrade Tito, kill all this immorality!!!”; “than, pal, let’s slaughter them. and so they will tell that we slaughtered them”, “poor guy is completely sick… but it should be immediately put into isolation!!!”; “I think people, like this gay subject, should not get that much playing time on television, however they should not live”; “We are waiting for you, there will be everything…means, there will be beating…”, etc…

As stated in the explanation of the verdict of the Court headed by Judge Predrag Vasic: “Comments contain insults addressed to LGBT people, and they contain that the same should ‘close to the ghetto’… ‘shoot them’… they are called ‘the sick, who should be treated’… ‘perverse’, refer them the threats… Such comments and opinions encourage hate and violence against LGBT population and their discrimination, and also represent hate speech. The defendant (Press) by publishing these comments breached the prohibition of expression of ideas, information and opinions that represent hate speech in the media, in this case against LGBT people, in accordance with Article 11 of Anti-Discrimination Law and Article 38 of Law on Public Information. Also, on the defendant’s web site stands an indication that Press prohibited hate speech and such comments will be not published on its portal. Despite those prohibitions, comments that contain hate speech against LGBT people are given by the defendant.”

The Court imposed a temporary measure, in accordance with Article 44 of Anti-Discrimination Law, which prohibited the publication of these comments on the website of Press. Also the verdict says that Press will be required “to publish the verdict in its entirety, at its expense, without comment and without delay, in the second number of daily newspapers from the day of the final verdict.”

The court also rejected the defendant’s (Press) objection, about the lack of legitimacy of the GSA as a defender, and found that “a complaint against the author and editor for the violation of the prohibition of hate speech, may be submitted by any legal entity designed to protect the freedoms and rights of the citizens and that the GSA is association whose mission is to protect human rights of LGBT people. Since the publication of comments on the website of the defendant infringement on the prohibition of hate speech and discriminatory treated, in this case against LGBT people, and the Gay Straight Alliance is an organization that deals with protection of their human rights, GSA is legitimized defender in this court process.” The Court has ordered the Press to pay judicial costs to Gay Straight Alliance, but rejected the claim for compensation.

However, although aware of its importance, the Gay Straight Alliance cannot be fully satisfied with the verdict. This primarily refers on the length of court procedure which took nearly two years to bring the verdict although conducted by urgent procedure, and although Anti-Discrimination Law provides short term. GSA in the meantime raised another complaint against the newspaper Press, for publishing an article where Sasa Curcic, a participant in the reality show “Couples” offends the LGBT population, and also against Happy TV because is allowed the broadcasting of these insults.

Also, there is concern if the Court of Appeal confirms the validity of the verdict in final instance or, as it often happens when it comes to court cases based on different sexual orientation and gender identity, the same reverse or mitigate.

GSA also reminds that in addition to this case, GSA Litigation Service running another 16 cases before the Serbian courts including the complaint against the prohibition of GSA press conference in Sava Center, cases of violence against LGBT people, discrimination against LGBT people at the workplace and others.

GSA Info Center