Tomorrow, the awards for investigative journalism will be handed out by the Independent Association of Journalists of Serbia (IJAS) with the support of the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade. It will happen on the day when journalist Milan Pantic, a correspondent of “Večernje novosti” from Jagodina, was killed.
I looked at the shortlisted nominees and whoever gets it, deserves it.
List of nominations:
The Award was postponed this year due to pandemic, and it will be held on Thursday in the Media Center instead at the Faculty of Dramatic Arts.
As of this year, the award is named after our colleague Dejan Anastasijevic, who left us too early. Since these days, I have paid attention to the impunity of the murders of journalists, and violence against journalists, and certainly right after the murders of Dada, Slavko and Milan Pantic, one of the most serious unsolved cases of violence against journalists, was the assassination attempt on Dejan and his family.
I knew Dejan well, as I have closely cooperated with him throughout his professional life. Our private lives were also rather intertwined.
On B92, we nicknamed him Ananas (Pineapple in English). All of a sudden, I am faced with the information that he also has the “nickname” of Haji (Hadzija in Serbian).
Hadžija, or Haji (Arab اجٍّ, “Pilgrim“), is an honorary title given to Muslims who have performed the hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca. In a figurative sense, the term is sometimes used for people who have distinguished themselves by some great achievement, that is, they enjoy authority/respect in the community.
In the police administration, the case of the assassination attempt on Dejan Anastasijevic and his family, which took place on April 14, 2007, is codenamed “Hadzija/Haji“. I thought it was a vision of a police investigator or administrator, in accordance with his perception of Dejan, but I soon realized that the name was inspired by Haji Djerina Street where Dejan lived. However, Dejan was certainly a pilgrim, as defined by Wikipedia…
He started his career on Radio B92 in the comic book show “Cloudlet” (“Oblačić”), it was a kind of radio comic, which is not strange because we also had a photo section in Rhythm of the Heart, a radio show. He was one of the wise guys, dedicated to culture and phenomena. While working at B92, he was not interested in politics. By moving to weekly Vreme, he very quickly established himself as a reporter, an investigative journalist, who dealt with the most difficult topics. Along with weekly Vreme, he also worked for many foreign media, as well as acorrespondent from Brussels, and his last engagement was for the BBC Serbian Service. Like other journalists who reported from Kosovo, following the conflicts and crimes, he experienced persecution, and after testifying in The Hague, the demonization reached its peak.
In addition to all these events, after the assassination attempt on him and his family, the then Minister of Police Dragan Jocic commented that his case was difficult to solve because the motive for the attack could not be determined. This could only be said by a cynic or someone who did not bother to look at the texts published by Dejan Anastasijevic – starting withScorpio criminal group, whose monstrous crime was discovered and made known through a video of crimes against Muslims they committed themselves, through war crimes indictees in The Hague, perpetrators of crimes committed in Kosovo…
When I received police protection 24/7, it was explained to me that it is necessary because of the overall activity, because of the accumulated threats and events, according to which it can be assumed that my life might be endangered. The intercepted communications between criminals and fan groups in which my name came up, only speeded up the action.
Dejan himself said in some of his statements that the assassination attempt was related to his overall actions… However, provoked by the attitude of the Minister of Police, in weekly Vreme on October 18, 2007, he wrote an article entitled “Who put bombs on my window”: “I admit that I do not have enough evidence to accuse anyone, but I think there are enough indications to conclude that the attack on me and my family came from the same political-police underground that survived October 5 and “Saber” without major problems. It is the stone under which the state must not peek, in order not to disturb the scorpions that are most beautiful in the dark. What follows is a simple enumeration of the facts that I think are relevant, from the description of the events, to the subsequent knowledge of the motives and political background. Readers will be able to draw their own conclusions“. Read the text, there’s much more information there than in the police investigation.
This text should become part of the curriculum for all journalists, but also for all those who want to deal with any kind of activism, politics, etc.
When one hears from those who worked on the case, it will be understood that everything that President Tadicpromised immediately after the assassination, no one heard in the base, or the instruction between the different levels of the government was redirected: do nothing, while simulating doing something. Checks were made on reports that someone had heard something, that someone had bragged about something, that maybe they were Scorpios… Of course they all denied, they went through polygraphs, there was no DNA match…
I believe that all such cases must undergo independent revisions, because the imperative of such events is their successful resolution. Not only that we haven’t got a solution here, but we also had an explanation from the Minister of Police himself as to why there would not be one. The fate of Serbia is determined by such symbols:Seselj who dominates the social scene of Serbia with all the evil represented by his political career, other convicted criminals being proclaimed heroes, unpunished murderers of journalists who livedpeacefully in their luxury.
I was in the courtyard of the Vreme editorial office the day after the assassination attempt on Dejan, when President Boris Tadic came and promised that everything would be done. Upon leaving that event, I couldn’t get rid of the feeling that simply overwhelmed me: the beer adds that dominated the scene on the umbrellas above the tables. In reality, one minister soon claimed that they had no motive, and the other Minister of Information, Kojadinovic, said that the problem was in the fact that his colleague Anastasijeviclived on the ground floor, so that is why a bomb was planted easily…
This case of assassination attempt must be further investigated.
I can regretfully notice that I no longer see the determination to insist on that case coming from ourjournalistic profession.
We were often naive to believe, like Dejan did, that one day (especially two decades after October 5), it will be normal that the show dedicated to the NUNS Award for investigative journalism will be aired on the public service in
prime time, acquainting general public with the works of nominated investigative journalists. No government has established this as an unwritten rule for the past twenty years. That is why such programs could only be aired on B92, B92 info, back then, and now on N1, and in fact mostly in online media and press. It is the indisputable public interest that, based on the Law on Public Information and the Law on Public Media Services, should be fulfilled by the local public media services.
The awards will be presented, and indeed both those who receive them and the nominees will be proud.
Why shouldn’t that pride be shared by the entire community in Serbia, no matter how painful the findings of the journalist’s research are when they become general knowledge? Truths can have a healing effect if we recognize that we need that healing. Living in a lie can be seemingly easier, but we are paying for the consequences permanently. And the price is getting higher when it comes to the future. And it is usually inversely proportional to impunity.
Here’s some facts for those who hate to be reminded of them:
On April 4, 2007, at around 2.45 am, in Haji DjerinaStreet No. 14, at Vracar Municipality, under the metal drip of the bedroom window of the apartment (located on the ground floor of a residential building) owned by Dejan Anastasijevic, born on April 10, 1962, a hand grenade exploded. At the moment of the explosion, Dejan’s wife was also in the apartment with Dejan.Later, Dejan stated that he was lucky that his daughter was returning from nightlife late.
An unexploded M50 bomb was found on the street,about ten meters from the explosion, partiallydamaged. A hand grenade number … was found nearby. It is assumed that the perpetrator planted two bombs, one of which exploded and the other hadn’t, damaged by the explosion of the first one. Dejan and his wife slept in the room on which window the explosive device was planted and thanks to the fact that the bed was shielded from the direction of the bomb explosion, they remained alive.
javniservis.rs / Veran Matić, Belgrade, 10/06/2020