Insult is an offence under Art. 170 of the Serbian Criminal Code. The punishment is either 20 to 100 daily fines or a fixed fine ranging from 40,000 to 200,000 Serbian dinars .
If committed via the press, television, or other media, or at a public gathering, the punishment is increased to 80 to 240 daily fines or a fixed fine ranging from 150,000 to 450,000 dinars.
It is also worth noting the following provision:
Dissemination of information on personal and family life: The Serbian Criminal Code prohibits “dissemination of information on personal and family life”, defined as the presentation or dissemination of information on anyone’s personal or family life that may harm his honour or reputation. The offence is punishable with a fine or imprisonment for up to six months (Art. 172 of the Serbian Criminal Code). If this offence is committed through the media or other similar means or at a public gathering, the punishment increases to a fine or imprisonment for up to six months.
Criminal Defamation of Public Officials
Criminal Defamation of the Head of State
Criminal Defamation of the State and its Symbols
Publicly mocking the Republic of Serbia, its flag, coat of arms or national anthem is a criminal offence under Art. 173 of the Serbian Criminal Code. The punishment is a fine or imprisonment for up to three months.
Criminal Defamation of Foreign Heads of State
Criminal Defamation of Foreign States and Symbols
Publicly exposing to mockery a foreign state or its flag, coat of arms, or national anthem is a criminal offence under Art. 175 of the Serbian Criminal Code. The punishment is a fine or imprisonment for up to three months. The same penalty shall be imposed if a person publicly exposes to mockery the United Nations, the International Red Cross, or other organisation of which Serbia is a member.
Criminal Defamation of the Deceased
Note that Art. 177(2) of the Serbian Criminal Code states that if a defamation-related criminal offence is committed against a deceased person, prosecution may be initiated (via private action) by the spouse of the deceased or person cohabiting with the deceased, lineal descendant, adoptive parent, adopted child, or the deceased person’s sibling.
Note that publicly exposing a group of people to ridicule in connection with their affiliation with a certain religion (among other group characteristics) is criminal offence under Art. 174 of the Serbian Criminal Code. The punishment is a fine or imprisonment for up to one year.
Criminal Defamation and Media
In 2012, journalist Laszlo Szasz was sentenced to 150 days in prison after being unable to pay a criminal fine for insult. Szasz, who wrote occasionally for Hungarian-language media in northern Serbia, had been convicted under Criminal Code Art. 170 (insult) over a critical comment about Hungarian far-right politician Laszlo Toroczkai in the comment section of the Hungarian language daily Magyar Szo. After serving two weeks of his jail term, Szasz was pardoned by Serbian president Tomislav Nikolic.
In 2010, a court in Cacak ordered the newspaper Cacanske novine to pay 180,000 Serbian dinars in moral damages to former government minister and leader of the New Serbia party Velimir Ilic over two articles – one a satire and the other a critical commentary – that Ilic claimed caused damage to his reputation. That decision was upheld on appeal. In addition, the newspaper’s owner, Stojan Markovic, was charged with criminal libel in relation to the articles and found guilty by a Cacak court. However, the conviction was later overturned by the Kragujevac Court of Appeal.
Recent Legal Changes
Libel was repealed as a criminal offence in 2012 (entry into force 1 January 2013) following an amendment to the Criminal Code.
Notes and Acknowledgements
Information for Serbia was originally collected by IPI as part of the “Out of Balance” report, published in January 2015 with support from the European Commission and incorporating research contributed by Center for Media, Data and Society at Central European University in Budapest and by the SHARE Foundation in Belgrade. This entry was later expanded and updated by IPI as part of a study commissioned by the Office of the Representative on Freedom of the Media of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).
A fully footnoted version of this entry is available in the OSCE study. This entry was last updated in March 2017.
The information contained in this database is for informational and advocacy purposes only. If you are a journalist facing a defamation claim, you should seek legal advice from a qualified attorney. However, if you are unable to find such an attorney, IPI may be able to assist you in doing so. Please contact us at info(at)ipi.media.