Vienna, 7 August 2012 — The Vienna-based South European Media Organisation (SEEMO), an affiliate of the International Press Institute (IPI), welcomes the presidential pardon for Laszlo Szasz, the author of a reader’s comment, who was imprisoned because he could not pay a fine for offending a political activist. Serbia’s President Tomislav Nikolic pardoned Laszlo Szasz, as requested by all major journalists’ associations in Serbia, and SEEMO, and said that he had signed the pardon because he believed in freedom of expression as a fundamental right and because nobody should serve a 150-day prison sentence for publishing their opinion.
On 24 April, 2007, Laszlo Szasz, an occasional contributor to Hungarian-language print media in Vojvodina (Serbia), published a commentary in the readers’ section of the Novi Sad-based daily Magyar Szo. Szasz criticised Laszlo Toroczkai, leader of the 64 Counties Youth Movement in Hungary, an advocate of revision of the 1920 Trianon Treaty, which defined the current borders of the Hungarian state. Toroczkai sued Szasz for insult. The court in Subotica, Vojvodina (Serbia) declared Szasz guilty of insult according to Article 170 of the Penal Code and fined him 150,000 Dinars (approximately 1,400 Euros). Unable to pay the fine, 69-old Szasz served a prison sentence from 20 July, 2012 to 3 August, 2012, the day he was released under the presidential pardon.
“I welcome the presidential pardon. It marks a good beginning for the new government in Serbia and its respect for press freedom,” said SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic.