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Pajtic against Serbia

Importance level
Panel of Judges
Committee (3)
Judgment Date
Date of Application
(Čl. 8) Pravo na poštovanje privatnog i porodičnog života (N/A)
(Čl. 35) Uslovi prihvatljivosti (N/A)
Application Numbers
Verdict/resolution view

European Court of Human Rights (hereinafter: the Court)is On April 20, 2023, he announced the decision in the casePajtić v. Serbia,number 33776/20.

It's a decisionpassed unanimouslyabout Board from the3 judgee.

The case refers to the statements of the politician A.M. which the applicant claimed hurt his honor and reputation, so he initiated proceedings for non-material damage compensation before the domestic courts. His request was rejected before all instances, as well as before the Constitutional Court, so the applicant turned to the Court claiming that he was denied the right to the protection of private and family life..

The court found thatnational courts rightly reasoned that the freedom of expression of A.M. should be given priority in relation to the applicant's right to respect for private life, and that it follows that the domestic courts did not exceed the field of freedomnot the assessments that belong to them in such cases and petitionin isrejectedas obviously unfounded.


The applicant(hereinafter: applicant), Bojan Pajtić, is a Serbian citizen who was born in 1970 and lives in Novi Sad. He is a professor at the Faculty of Law of the University of Novi Sad, former president of the provincial government in AP Vojvodina and former president of the Democratic Party.

During 2015, the applicant's political rival - A.M. - who was a member of parliament at the time, made statements to the media on several occasions that the applicant's regime in Vojvodina was criminal and corrupt, and that the applicant "literally kidnapped" DS councilors and held them captive in the Andrevlje Hotel in Beocin.

The applicant submitted a lawsuit to the Basic Court in Novi Sad against A.M. in order to compensate non-material damage due to mental pain caused by injury to honor and reputation as a result of the aforementioned statements in the press, in the amount of 500,000.00 dinars. On May 14, 2018, the Basic Court in Novi Sad issued a verdict under the number P. no. 7857/2017, which rejected the claim and obliged the plaintiff to compensate the costs of the proceedings to the defendant. In explaining the verdict, the court based its position on the fact that the limits of acceptable criticism are wider whenis a word about public figures, in relation to private persons, especially in the context of political struggle.

Against this decision, the applicant filed an appeal, so the Appellate Court in Novi Sad, with its judgment Gž. no. 2431/18 of June 28, 2018 confirmed the judgment of the Basic Court in Novi Sad and rejected the prosecutor's appeal, referring to the practice of the European Court on the limits of freedom of expression. Then the applicant submitted an appeal to the Supreme Court of Cassation, which by decision Rev. 4712/2018 of October 4, 2018 rejected the revision as impermissible.

Finally, along with the review procedure, the applicant filed a constitutional appeal against the judgment of the Appellate Court in Novi Sad, due to the violation of Article 23, paragraph 1 and Article 36, paragraph 1 of the Constitution.

On February 13, 2020, the Constitutional Court issued a decision Už. 9205/2018 by which he rejected the constitutional appeal as unfounded. In its decision, the Constitutional Court reiterated the Court's views on the greater degree of tolerance that politicians must show, and found that the regular courts correctly determined the limits of freedom of expression. Applying the Court's three-part test, the Constitutional Court determined that the limitation of the applicant's human dignity served a legitimate goal, that it was proportionate to the achievement of that goal and necessary in a democratic society, as well as that the reasons of the regular courts for such action were constitutionally acceptable, relevant and sufficient.


The applicant submitted a petition to the CourtJuly 13, 2020.

Referring to Article 8 of the Convention (the right to protection of private and family life), the applicant complained that the domestic courts, by rejecting his request, denied that right. The applicant complained that the reasons given by the national courts were not relevant and sufficient, that the courts did not distinguish between facts and value judgments, and that they did not achieve a fair balance between two opposing values, especially his right to respect for private life and freedom of expression of the respondent .


In this decision, the Court first of all reiterated the long-established position that honor and reputation are protected by the Convention as part of the right to respect for private life, but in order for an attack on the same to represent a violation of that right, it must reach a certain level of seriousness, and in a way that makes it impossible enjoyment of that right. The need to achieve a fair balance between freedom of expression (Article 10 of the Convention) and the right to respect for private life (Article 8 of the Convention) is particularly emphasized.

The criteria for achieving this balance, according to the practice of the Court, are: contribution to the discussion of public interest;how well-known is the person to whom the information relates; that person's actions before publication; form, content and consequences of publication; as well as the peculiarities of the factual situation of the given case. If the national courts based on these criteria approached the balancing of conflicting rights, the Court should not replace theirs with its position, i.e. very important reasons are needed for him to do so.

Then the Court found that the statements of A.M. did not relate to the applicant's private life, that they were part of a discussion of public interest, and that the statements of deputies (whether they were given in the National Assembly or outside it) represent political expressionpar excellence, which enjoys special protection. The fact that the applicant is a politician means that he is obliged to show a greater degree of tolerance, because he consciously and inevitably exposes himself to criticism of his every word and deed. In this regard, the Court noted that the applicant has been in politics long enough to get used to this "style of communication", and that he himself made similar statements about A.M.

The Court paid special attention to the question of how much evidence of truthfulness is required to defend someone against the charge that his statements are defamatory. Namely, the Court found that someone who is involved in a public discussion does not have to meet a more demanding standard than "care appropriate to the circumstances", i.e. that the obligation to prove truthfulness is an excessive restriction of freedom of expression in such cases. The fact that A.M. he is not a journalist, or anything similar, means that he does not have to adhere to their professional rules, and that the numerous allegations in the media that he highlighted in his defense are sufficient grounds for his statements. The applicant's statements about how there is no media freedom in Serbia and that all media are "regime" were not relevant to the proceedings.

Ultimately, the Court concluded that the national courts had reasoned well that the freedom of expression of A.M. should be given priority in relation to the applicant's rights, and that it follows that the domestic courts did not exceed the field of freedomnot the assessments that belong to them in such cases.

Therefore, the petition of the applicant was declared inadmissible due to obvious unfoundedness.

Decisions made at the domestic level which preceded the application to the ECHR
одлука Уставног суда Уж. 9205/2018 од 13. фебруара 2020. године
пресуда Апелационог суда у Новом Саду Гж.бр. 2431/18 од 28. јуна 2018. године
пресуда Основног суда у Новом Саду П. 7857/2017 од 14. марта 2018. године
Specific Measures
General Measures
Action Plan/Report
Action Plan/Report pending
CM Decisions
Final Resolution