Coalition for Media Freedom and SafeJournalists Network: Police not to Attack Journalists, but to Enable them to Work Safely

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    photo: canva

    The Coalition for Media Freedom and the SafeJournalists Network strongly condemn attacks on journalists and the excessive use of force against citizens and  by the police during yesterday’s protest in Serbia. We appeal to protest organizers, participants and the police to enable journalists and media workers to work smoothly and safely, so that they can credibly convey the events of the protest to the public.

    At yesterday’s protest organized by the “Serbia Against Violence” (,,Srbija protiv nasilja”) coalition, during the live broadcast, the Al Jazeera television team was attacked by the police. The journalist of this television, Jelena Glusac, says that one policeman grabbed the cameraman by the neck and pushed him away so that he would not record the arrest of the demonstrators.

    “The police arrived quickly and two or three of them grabbed one of the participants, knocked him down, disabled him. We were live in the program at that moment.We were looking to get out of the way and not disturb the police, but also to be there to broadcast everything live. So, this was a police reaction to our filming one of the arrests. Then a policeman  approached the cameraman from behind, grabbed him by the neck and shouted ‘What are you filming here’. I reacted to that and told him that we are journalists, to which he replied that we cannot film and move,” said Al Jazeera journalist Jelena Glusac.

    Nova.rs journalist Andrija Lazarevic was hit on the hand with a baton by a policeman. He said for Nova S television that he was reporting on what was happening on the “edge” of the protest when the police cordon started to suppress the citizens, and that then a policeman hit him on the hand with a baton, even though he was not in his way.

    One policeman tried to snatch the camera from photojournalist Beta, but fortunately the incident ended without serious consequences.

    Also, by throwing tear gas at the demonstrators, the police hindered the journalists from doing their work.

    Several other incidents were recorded at the protest, and the collection of information about it is still ongoing.

    The Coalition for Media Freedom and the SafeJournalists network strongly condemn these attacks and call on the competent authorities to identify and initiate proceedings against persons from the Ministry of Internal Affairs who physically assaulted journalists while they were reporting on events of public importance.

    Police officers are obliged to enable journalists and media workers to work safely, provide the necessary information and cooperate so that the movement of journalists and their teams is unhindered. We remind the public that the case of the brutal beating of journalist Zikica Stevanovic by members of the gendarmerie from July 2020 has still not received a legal epilogue. In addition to the competent public prosecutor’s office, the case is being handled by the internal control of the police, which has not completed the control procedure even after three years.

    We invite journalists and media workers to immediately report all attacks to the police and journalist associations in order to act in accordance with the mechanism for reporting and prosecuting perpetrators, which was established within the Permanent Working Group for the Safety of Journalists.

    Journalists can report attacks on the Independent Journalists Association of Serbia telephone number 060/688-22-31, which is active 24 hours a day.

    We remind journalists that, in order to avoid possible incidents at protests, they should be visibly marked. “PRESS” vests can be picked up at the IJAS office, Resavska 28/2, between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., or call our phone number to arrange another type of delivery.

     

    Every attack on journalists touches upon public interest, democracy, and the rights of all citizens.

    Pristina – Skopje – Sarajevo – Zagreb – Belgrade – Podgorica – Tirana, 25.12. 2023

     

    Coalition for Media Freedom: Association of Media, Association of Online Media (AOM), the Independent Association of Journalists of Vojvodina (NDNV), Independent Journalists’ Association of Serbia (NUNS), Business Association of Local and Independent Media “Local Press” and the Slavko Curuvija Foundation

    SafeJournalists Network: Association of Journalists of Kosovo; Association of Journalists of Macedonia; BH Journalists Association; Croatian Journalists’ Association; Independent Journalists Association of Serbia and  Trade Union of Media of Montenegro