Letters   |   Bosnia

Bosnia: Senad Avdic Convicted on Charges of Criminal Libel

June 28,1999
His Excellency Ante Jelovic
Chairman of the Presidency of the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina
Via: Permanent Mission of the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina to the United
Nations, 866 United Nations Plaza, Suite 580, New York, NY 10017
Fax: (212) 751-9019
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is gravely concerned about the recent convictions of Senad Avdic, editor in chief of the Sarajevo-based independent weekly magazine Slobodna Bosna on charges of criminal libel.

On June 23, Judge Mirsad Shehovic of the Sarajevo Municipal Court sentenced Avdic to a two-month suspended jail term on charges of criminal libel. If he is convicted on new charges within a year, he will have to serve the jail term. The criminal prosecution was initiated on behalf of Bakir Alispahic, the former Minister of Internal Affairs of Bosnia-Herzegovina, in response to a 1997 article written by Avdic. Because it was written prior to May 27, Avdic will not have to serve the jail term from his earlier conviction. In the article, Avdic claimed that Alispahic was responsible for bringing in Iranian specialists to train the Bosnian special services. He also raised the possibility that Alispahic misappropriated funds while serving as Minister of Internal Affairs.

In a separate case, the same court sentenced Avdic to a three-month suspended jail term on May 27 for allegedly defaming Semsudin Mehmedovic, the former Minister of Internal Affairs of Zenica-Doboj canton (located in central Bosnia). This sentence is also conditional for one year. Avdic's article alleged that Mehmedovic used force to dislodge protesters who were blocking a road to demand payment of salaries. Avdic also claimed that Mehmedovic was harboring terrorists, and had enabled some of them to leave the country.

Avdic still faces 11 other outstanding charges of criminal libel. With his June 23 conviction, he now faces up to five-months imprisonment if convicted on new criminal charges.

As a nonpartisan organization of journalists devoted to defending press freedom, CPJ condemns the conviction and sentencing of Senad Avdic on criminal libel charges as a violation of all international norms of press freedom. We object to the criminal prosecution of journalists as a means of intimidating and silencing them, and believe that there are ample civil remedies for libel. We call on you to use your good offices to ensure that charges against Avdic are immediately dropped, and that he is allowed to practice his profession without fear of reprisal. We also urge you to press for the elimination of all statutes that criminalize the criticism and satire of public officials, as they contravene all of Bosnia-Herzegovina's international commitments.

Thank you for your attention. We await your response.

Sincerely,

Ann K. Cooper
Executive Director






Join CPJ in Protesting Attacks on the Press in Bosnia

Send a letter to:

His Excellency Ante Jelovic
Chairman of the Presidency of the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina
Via: Permanent Mission of the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina to the United
Nations, 866 United Nations Plaza, Suite 580, New York, NY 10017
Fax: (212) 751-9019

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