Threats Cast Chill Over Serbia’s Media 

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Sitting at a table with his wife and a colleague in the small town of Leskovac, Dragan Marinovic waits for a meal at his favorite restaurant.

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Just then a stranger approached them and started threatening Marinovic, who is the executive editor of the Serbian news website Resetka.

The reason, Marinovi told the Serbian service of the Granthshala: A story was published by Resetka about the death of a bodyguard who was assigned to a city official.

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Threats to journalists in Serbia are not uncommon.

“Anyone can come up to you on the street, or anywhere, slap you a couple of times, and get away with it. [even] When you are with friends or family, ”said Marinovich.

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The Council of Europe’s (CoE) Forum to Promote the Safety of Journalism has cited Marinovic’s case and threats from two other Serbian journalists in recent months.

Dragoaw Blagojevic, editor of the magazine drovotechnical, after reporting on the logging industry received death threats in an anonymous call in July; And hooligans threatened Insider TV’s Brankika Stankovic during a basketball game in May.

Free expression and media rights groups have also separately pointed to the deteriorating journalism environment in the country.

In Marinovic’s case from March, the journalist says that the man verbally assaulted her and threatened to kill her.

At first, Marinovic tried to reason with the stranger.

“We tried to talk [the] The person who reached He started bullying and mentioning an influential local politician,” said Marinovich, refusing to name the politician. “I called up the local politician to ask why a man is troubling us.”

At that point, Marinovic said, the attacker grabbed the journalist’s phone and left the restaurant.

“He came back after several minutes, continued with the threats, so we left,” Marinovic said.

Marinovic was able to retrieve his phone, and he later wrote an editorial about the encounter.

This resulted in an investigation by the police and a local prosecutor’s office. But so far, he said, there has been no update.

Marinovic said threats are a regular challenge for local journalists in Serbia. He has experienced three similar incidents.

In almost all cases, he said, officers have not been able to identify suspects “so the investigation becomes blunt.”

FILE – Members of the Independent Journalists’ Association of Serbia hold a poster showing journalist Milan Jovanovic in his burnt-out home that reads: “What are we waiting for?” During a protest in Belgrade, Serbia, December 12, 2019. It’s been a year since the protests broke out when attackers set fire to a house outside Belgrade.

A database of the Independent Journalists’ Association of Serbia has recorded 60 cases of attacks, threats or threats since the beginning of the year.

And while Serbia improved its ranking on the 2022 Press Freedom Index and is known for its award-winning investigative journalism, media watchdog Reporters Without Borders cited challenges including political pressure and impunity in attacks on the media.

The Ministry of Culture and Information told Granthshala that it is dedicated to journalistic integrity, and it cited platforms and services established to assist those under attack.

As part of “dedicated, transparent work to improve the environment”, the ministry said, the government established a working group focused on media safety and security, which meets monthly. These meetings are attended by the President, Vice President and other representatives.

subtle warning

Jelena Zorik, an award-winning investigative reporter who contributes to the Balkans Investigative Reporting Network and weekly TimesThreats have been received against his family.

It all started when Zorik learned of alleged connections to state security officials in what became known as the Jowanjica case, in which an organic farm was apparently used as a front for a marijuana operation.

A high-ranking official, who is facing charges in an unrelated case, claimed in a TV interview about Zorik’s sources and falsely attributed his brother’s statements about Zorik’s work.

“To mention my brother’s name publicly through television broadcasts, I see as a threat,” Zorik said.

The journalist also found disturbing notes from people he believed to be connected to the case.

But, she said, “I’m not comfortable describing my feelings when I’m threatened and that’s what strikes me the most, because I don’t want them to know how to approach me.”

Zorik reported the threats to the authorities and described the response of the authorities as encouraging.

But she does not believe that authorities always take all necessary steps to deal with cases of attacks or threats to journalists.

And sometimes, she said, the threats are less direct.

She said, “The most dangerous threats are those that are most difficult to prove. Received messages at your door expressing concern on your part or wishing you and your family good health.

“I know of an old traditional offender: The crowd usually blows up a kiss before a shooting.”

‘Hostile and dangerous environment’

The Vienna-based International Press Institute says Serbia is one of the European countries where journalists are at constant risk.

IPI’s Jamie Wiseman told Granthshala earlier this year, “Attacks, death threats and defamation campaigns against journalists continue to grow.” “Failure to resolve those matters fosters a hostile and dangerous environment for journalists.”

Wiseman, who worked Protecting Press Freedom in Times of Tension and Conflict – A report produced by the CoE partner organizations including IPI – was part of a delegation to Serbia in 2021.

“We saw an example of political will, but it was also shown by various bodies how to thoroughly investigate threats and intimidation,” Wiseman said.

Teresa Ribeiro, representative on media freedom at the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, believes that the key to improving the situation is the full implementation of a media strategy and action plan that the Serbian authorities adopted in 2020.

The document, developed in collaboration with the European Union, OSCE, the Norwegian Embassy and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation – a German political party foundation – aims to protect Serbia’s press freedom and regulate the development of media markets by 2025.

In July Ribeiro visited Serbia and spoke to representatives of the government, the media and the civil sector.

“There are challenges and gaps that need to be addressed,” she told Granthshala.

Ribeiro praised some government initiatives, including a working group to protect journalists and a 24-hour telephone line that provides access to free legal advice for media personnel who are attacked.

But, she said, “more action and political commitment are needed to create a safer, more free, functional and pluralistic media environment.”

The Ministry of Culture and Information also cited the working group and helpline. In addition, the ministry said, the public prosecutor’s office has been ordered to “promptly act” on reports of criminal acts against journalists.

Resetka’s Marinovic believes that Serbian journalists “should have more courage in what we do,” telling Granthshala, “Journalism, freedom and democracy are at risk in this country.”

Marinovic said the country’s media should stand against attempts to intimidate or interfere with their work, adding that journalists should “protect the public interest and not report favoring local politicians and powerful people.”

Origin of this story happened in Granthshala’s Serbian Service,


Source: www.voanews.com

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