SafeJournalists Network and Coalition for Media Freedom: Urgently Resolve All Cases of Frequent Threats to Journalists

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    photo: canva

    Over the past few days, several journalists in Serbia have been continuously insulted, threatened live, by phone or through messages on social networks, and some have been the target of intimidation by the police. The SafeJournalists Network and the Coalition for Media Freedom are concerned because the experience shows that the non-reaction of institutions results in more intense pressures and even physical attacks on journalists. That is why we demand that all cases be resolved as soon as possible.

    Journalist and executive director of the Independent Association of Journalists of Vojvodina (NDNV), Ana Lalic, received a series of worst insults and threats that she will be slaughtered in the center of Novi Sad, due to her publicly stated position on the construction of a church in the Novi Sad settlement of Liman. Death threats were also sent to members of her family.

    NDNV warned that deliberate tension is being created in Novi Sad, before the local elections, where the construction of a church on Liman is used as an excuse, in order to present citizens who are against the construction as opponents of religion, Serbia and Orthodoxy.

    A series of threats and insults were sent to the journalist of the N1 television station Ksenija Pavkov from Novi Sad, as well as to the journalist of the local radio and portal 021, via social networks, for reporting on the protest in front of the Center for Social Work in Novi Sad regarding the institution’s decision to temporarily deprive Ana Mihaljica of custody of her three children.

    Years of consistent collapse and capture of institutions is paying off. The public does not believe them and the protesting citizens do not want to listen to their explanations. Since the journalist’s job is to convey the official views of all the participants in the event, those who report on this case are under constant pressure.

    Sport klub journalists Nikola Stamenic, Nikola Jankovic and Branko Spasojevic were also targeted by threats for reporting on sports events.

    The job of a journalist is to report in the public interest, to hear all sides and to consider all the facts of the event, no matter how much some people don’t like it.

    In the case of investigative journalist Milivoje Pantovic, whose laptop was damaged by unknown burglars, there is a serious suspicion that the computer was destroyed with the intention of warning or disrupting his investigative work. Pantovic was exposed to pressure and targeting for a long time, which greatly affected his further work.

    FAR portal journalist from Dimitrovgrad, Slavisa Milanov, was subjected to unnecessary harassment by the police in Pirot. After his vehicle was stopped, and the alcohol and drug tests turned out to be negative, he was nevertheless detained for questioning under the pretext that they suspected that he had transported the wanted persons across the border with Bulgaria, which Milanov denied. The police officers did not check the cameras from the border crossing.

    We believe that this move by the police is unjustified, that the goal is to intimidate journalists, and we demand that it stop immediately.

    We also remind of the case of physical violence against the journalist of the local In Medija portal from Indjija, Verica Marincic, who was literally pushed out of the premises of the local government by a security guard and prevented from performing her journalistic work.

    We also demand that the competent authorities create a safe environment for the work of journalists, by starting to sanction those who threaten them. The biggest problem is impunity for threats and attacks on journalists. When those who threaten the safety of journalists are punished, the state will send a clear message of what is prohibited and thus discourage further threats and attacks against journalists.

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

    Pristina – Skopje – Sarajevo – Zagreb – Belgrade – Podgorica – Tirana, 13.03. 2024

    The 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

    The Coalition for Media Freedom: the Association of Media, the Association of Online Media (AOM), the Independent Association of Journalists of Vojvodina (NDNV), the Independent Journalists’ Association of Serbia (NUNS), the Business Association of Local and Independent Media “Local Press”, the Slavko Curuvija Foundation and Branch Trade Union of Culture, Arts and Media ‘Nezavisnost’