OSCE Media Freedom Representative concerned over recent targeting of media workers in Serbia

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On 25 April, Dinko Gruhonjić, a journalist and programme director of the Independent Journalists’ Association of Vojvodina (NDNV), and his family members were threatened and insulted via a social media platform by an unidentified user.

The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Teresa Ribeiro, expressed her concern today over the recent targeting of media workers in Serbia, urging the competent authorities to take effective measures to identify and prosecute all those responsible.

According to reports, over the past few days, several journalists and other media workers have been subjected to increasing threats of violence, verbal attacks, and accusations of being foreign mercenaries and ‘traitors’.

On 25 April, Dinko Gruhonjić, a journalist and programme director of the Independent Journalists’ Association of Vojvodina (NDNV), and his family members were threatened and insulted via a social media platform by an unidentified user, accusing Gruhonjić of being a “traitor”. Reportedly, the perpetrator also tried several times to call the journalist via a social media app.

On 22 April, the independent daily newspaper Danas received a series of death threats and insults directed towards its employees via e-mail, an online messaging app, and comments on their social media pages, from both anonymous and named accounts. The threats reportedly stem from a quote from Mahatma Gandhi that the newspaper had published in its print edition and Instagram page on Good Friday before the Orthodox Easter holiday. On 19 April, the crew from portal Nova.rs was compelled to stop filming from a construction site suspected of alleged permit irregularities after a man claiming to be the security guard of the site threatened and insulted them, obstructing their work. On 18 April, the independent broadcaster N1TV also received an anonymous e-mail threatening to ‘slaughter’ the outlet’s employees and calling them liars and foreign mercenaries.

Most of the targeted media outlets and journalists have faced similar threats and attacks in the past over their critical reporting. According to media reports, those recently targeted have filed criminal complaints to the competent authorities to initiate investigations and identify the perpetrators. Allegedly, so far, the prosecution authorities have launched criminal proceedings into the reported death threats directed towards the employees of broadcaster N1TV and newspaper Danas.

“I am increasingly concerned by the latest barrage of threats and tone of accusations against media workers in Serbia. Such targeted anti-media manifestations – which are all too often perpetrated in direct reprisal for journalists’ work – have a chilling effect, not only on their ability to serve the public in a democratic society, but also on their physical and psychological wellbeing”, stated Ribeiro.

While the Representative welcomed the swift reaction by the prosecution in the case of N1TV and Danas, she urged Serbian authorities to do their utmost to end impunity for all crimes against the media before the law.  “All cases of threats and attacks on media workers must be met with strong condemnation and prosecuted in a swift and systematic manner,” Ribeiro said.

“This is not only vital to ensure the safety of media workers, but also to enhance trust and credibility in the importance of independent journalism in the country,” she added while recalling on the specific commitment that the participating States made in 2018 “to take effective measures to end impunity for crimes committed against journalists.”

The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media observes media developments in all 57 OSCE participating States. She provides early warning on violations of freedom of expression and media freedom and promotes full compliance with OSCE media freedom commitments. Learn more at www.osce.org/fom , Twitter: @OSCE_RFoM and on www.facebook.com/osce.rfom.

Source: European Interest