Violation of Fundamental Rights When Writer Risks Jail Sentence for Peaceful Meeting

Biljana Srbljanovic, renowned Serbian writer and human rights defender, has been accused of disorderly conduct for her participation at the promotion of Pescanik radio show in Pancevo, Serbia. However, the members of the right-wing and nationalistic organisations who tried to disrupt the meeting were free to go.

On 1 March 2009, Biljana Srbljanovic attended the promotion of the radio show Pescanik in Pancevo. Members of the organisation ‘Dveri srpske’ attempted to violently break up the gathering. They were stopped by the audience who threw them out. But no charge has been brought against them. Instead Biljana Srbljanovic, who was one of the invited speakers, was accused of disorderly behavior. This is an offence punishable by a fine or imprisonment of up to 60 days.

“We strongly condemn the accusations against Biljana Srbljanovic. She expressed her opinions during a peaceful and organized meeting. This is clearly a violation of the freedom of expression and the freedom of association,” says Marie Månson, Programme Director for the Western Balkans at the Swedish Helsinki Committee.

On 22 May a court hearing will be held with Biljana Srbljanovic. The staff of radio show Pescanik will be present in front of the court as an act of support and solidarity. They encourage all their listeners to join them.

“This is not Biljana Srbljanovic’s personal problem, this is our problem too,” they say in their press release.