VIENNA, 2 August 2012 – Dunja Mijatović, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, today called upon Serbia’s president, Tomislav Nikolić, to pardon journalist Laszlo Szasz, following his imprisonment for insult.
“It is unacceptable that Laszlo Szasz has been imprisoned for half a year for publishing a critical comment in a newspaper,” said Mijatović.
On 24 April 2007, Szasz published a reader’s comment in the daily Magyar Szo, criticizing Laszlo Toroczkai, the leader of the ultra-national 64 Counties Youth Movement in Hungary, whose goal is a revision of the 1920 treaty setting the current borders of Hungary.
A court in Subotica found Szasz guilty of insult and fined him 150,000 dinars (approximately 1,300 euros), which was upheld by the court of appeal in Novi Sod. Since Szasz could not pay the fine, it was transformed into a prison sentence of 150 days, which he started serving on 20 July 2012.
“This case shows the chilling effect of criminal defamation provisions and I urge the authorities to fully decriminalize speech offences,” Mijatović said.
The Representative joined the call of national and international media freedom advocates to amnesty Szasz as soon as possible.
“I hope that the authorities will recognize that even speech that offends, shocks and disturbs, needs to be protected and that politicians should show a higher degree of tolerance than ordinary citizens,” Mijatović said.