Serbian Minister Denies Breaking Data Protection Law

Serbia’s health minister denied he violated personal data protection legislation when he revealed details from the health record of a former newspaper director who made allegations against the country’s premier.

Zlatibor Loncar, Serbian Health Minister
      Zlatibor Loncar, Serbian Health Minister

Serbian Health Minister Zlatibor Loncar on Monday denied accusations by the Serbia’s Commissioner for Public Information and several opposition parties that he may have broken the law by revealing on a TV show that Aleksandar Kornic, former director ofKurir newspaper, was treated for mental health problems. “What is the violation there?” asked Loncar. He said it was his duty to “prevent the abuse” of Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, who Kornic has accused of being involved in blackmail.

During a programme on Sunday called ‘Overthrowing Vucic, The Final Act’, which was broadcast on pro-government station TV Pink, Loncar said that Kornic is a former patient of the Laza Lazarevic mental health clinic in Belgrade. Guests on the show, including Loncar, accused tabloid newspaper Kurir of being part of a plot to oust PM Vucic and his government in a coup. Rodoljub Sabic, Serbia’s Commissioner for Public Information, said on Monday that he had launched a probe into whether Loncar had broken personal data protection law. He said that it is worrying that increasing amounts of personal data from medical records has been appearing in the media. “It is about time that the issue of liability in relation to the protection of personal data starts to be treated in a fundamentally different way,” he said in a statement.

Mario Reljanovic, a legal expert from the law faculty at Union University in Belgrade, told BIRN that Loncar, as a public official, should not reveal such private information. He also questioned how Loncar found out what Kordic’s medical records contained. “I’m asking how did he know about Kordic’s medical diagnosise? That is not a minister’s job anyway and it is a clearly unacceptable for him to reveal it to the public,” Reljanovic said.

According to the Serbian criminal law, the penalty for the unauthorized collection, processing and sharing of personal data is up to three years in jail.

Loncar made his statement on TV Pink after Kurir published an article on Sunday saying that Kornic, the former director of the tabloid, filed a criminal report to the Higher Public Prosecutor alleging that PM Vucic, his brother Andrej Vucic, the owner of rival tabloid newspaper Informer, Dragan J. Vucicevic, and the director of Informer, Damir Dragic, asked him to make false accusations to discredit Kurir’s owner. Kurir owner Aleksandar Rodic, the owner of Adria Media Group, has claimed in recent weeks that Vucic was involved in attempts to blackmail him in order to prevent him from buying another newspaper, Politika.

Balkan Insight 

01 December 2015