Lawyer: Serious threats to journalists in Serbia, impunity prevents progress

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The threats to journalists in Serbia, particularly on social networks, are extremely serious and won’t stop as long as there is still impunity and the state institutions don’t do their job, a lawyer and investigator with the Independent Association of Serbia’s Journalists (NUNS) said on Tuesday.

Marija Babic added the official answer to reports of intimidation is “there are threats, but they remain threats.”

But she recalled the threats to Milan Jovanovic, who reported on local corruption, led to the burning of his house while he and his wife were inside it. He had received the threats before the arson, but they were not processed.

“We have to be aware that sometimes it goes beyond the threats,” Babic warned.

She said what was needed were the implementation of laws, the efficient work of the institutions, higher level of the police and prosecutors understanding of the journalism, and to what extent those threats influence the journalist and their work and media freedom and freedom of people generally.

“The institutions must start doing their job, primarily the police and prosecutors, and react timely in processing such cases. We have some mechanisms for that, but it is not enough,” Babic said.

The International Press Institute, IPI, reported in April that “in the first few months of 2021 alone, NUNS documented 21 different attacks against journalists. Death threats are common and online harassment of journalists has become increasingly normalised, with journalists investigating or reporting on crime and corruption facing particular dangers.”