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Journalist serving 150-day jail term for insulting Hungarian far-right politician
July 31, 2012Reporters Without Borders condemns the 150-day jail sentence that the Serbian journalist Sa? Laszclo began serving in Subotica, in northern Serbia on 23 July, a sentence he got for posting an article on the Hungarian-language website Magyar Szï¿½ in 2007 that allegedly insulted the Hungarian far-right politician Lï¿½szlï¿½ Toroczkai.
?Laszclo?s imprisonment is an aberration,? Reporters Without Borders said. ?You cannot convict a journalist on a criminal charge just for criticizing a politician. Being criticized is normal. Politicians must learn to accept criticism and to realize it is necessary in a democracy.
?As a candidate to join the European Union, Serbia must protect its journalists and ensure that their freedom to inform and comment is guaranteed. We support the Serbian journalists? associations that are calling for Laszclo?s release and we urge President Tomislav Nikoli? to intervene so that he can be amnestied and freed.?
Laszclo is now in Subotica prison serving a sentence for ?insulting? a Hungarian politician who was banned from Serbia for almost two years, from 2008 to 2010, because of his ultra-nationalist statements and activities. Toroczkai heads the Sixty-Four Counties Youth Movement (HVIM), which calls for the unification of ethnic Hungarians living outside Hungary.
The origin of the case is an article that Laszclo posted online on 24 April 2007 expressing concern about the dangers that Toroczkai?s movement pose for Hungary?s youth. Toroczkai filed a lawsuit which a municipal court in Subotica began examining on 4 April 2011. It finally ended with the court sentencing Laszclo to a fine of 150,000 dinars (1,200 euros) on a charge of ?insult? under article 170 of the criminal code, and giving him eight months to pay.
Laszclo appealed to a court in the northern city of Novi Sad, which upheld the sentence on 19 April of this year. As he could not afford to pay the fine, the sentence was changed to a jail term. He was notified three months later, just before his incarceration.
Serbia is ranked 80th out of 179 countries in the 2011-2012 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.
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