IJAS: Authorities to sanction attackers on journalists who reported from Saturday gatherings

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The Independent Journalists’ Association of Serbia (IJAS) welcomes the decision of the Higher Public Prosecutor’s Office to take all measures to identify and prosecute all persons who behaved violently during EuroPride, and verbally and physically attacked our colleagues who reported from the gathering during the EuroPride march in Belgrade. At the same time, IJAS raises the question of why certain police officers interfered with journalists’ work, even though the Higher Public Prosecutor’s Office, a few hours before the gathering, ordered the police and basic public prosecutor’s offices to detain up to 48 hours anyone who attacks journalists reporting from the events in Belgrade.

Despite this, IJAS thanks other policemen, who reacted quickly in difficult circumstances, often themselves exposed to the wrath of the protesters, and generally enabled journalists to do their work.

We expect all the attackers on journalists to be sanctioned. Let us recall that the excommunicated monk Antonije hit the cameraman of N1 television in the stomach with a bottle. The attacker was soon detained.

Members of the Belgrade Police Brigade, without any explanation, stopped and harassed FoNet journalist Davor Lukač, even though he properly introduced himself, just because he watched minors being detained and searched in a public place, in front of the building where the office of the President of Serbia Aleksandar Vučić is.

The crews of N1 and Tanjug were attacked near the Church of Saint Sava while filming the gathering. The N1 team was threatened, and journalist Petar Gajić’s mobile phone was confiscated and then returned to him. After he called a police station, plainclothes officers appeared. The Tanjug team was verbally threatened by a group of hooded boys demanding that they stop filming, and the police did not react at the time.

During the confrontation with the police, the protesters also threw a bottle at the journalist of the Nova.rs portal, who, fortunately, remained unharmed.

Maja Sever, president of the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), told the IJAS website that the yesterday’s EuroPride march once again showed that journalists have become targets.

“Attacks in Belgrade are not a random occurrence – instead, journalists performing their usual tasks, reporting on events, became the target of the attacks. Yesterday, the police ensured strong protection, but journalists were attacked nevertheless. In such circumstances it is increasingly difficult to do journalistic work, to cover all aspects of an event, without the risk of getting hurt. Yesterday’s event once again showed that it is necessary to build a strong mechanism for the protection of journalists which will be binding for responsible institutions, such as the police and the prosecutor’s office, but also for employers, who must provide journalists with safety equipment, education and support within the media house,” said Sever.

On the eve of the Saturday’s gatherings, IJAS sent a letter to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Police Directorate, which calls on them to “pay attention, provide support and, if necessary, protect the journalists who will be reporting on Saturday.” IJAS stated in the letter that, in accordance with the Constitution and laws of the Republic of Serbia, journalists should be granted freedom of movement, as well as the right to record and work, despite the ban on public gatherings, with the aim of providing timely and truthful information to all citizens in the Republic of Serbia about the events in the city of Belgrade.

The Independent Journalists’ Association of Serbia called on journalists and other media professionals to be clearly and visibly marked with “PRESS” markers prior to the gathering and to have journalist’s identification card prominently displayed, as well as to follow the instructions provided by police officers in given situations.

Journalists were also informed about contact points in IJAS  in case they need legal assistance or if a case needs to be reported to the prosecutor’s office and the police.

IJAS invites all colleagues to report to it if they have been attacked or their work interfered with in any way, in the case that IJAS has not recorded the instance already.