The Coalition of journalists’ and media associations called on public on Thursday to defend professional media and journalists who had been exposed to insults, serious threats and whose safety was jeopardised, the Beta news agency reported.
In its statement, the Coalition said that in the last several days only, some journalists were publicly lynched on social networks which had been masterminded and organised "in the manner of Joseph Goebbels."
Two days after the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) published a photo showing together President Aleksandar Vucic’s brother Andrej and Zvonko Veselinovic, Kosovo Serb infamous businessman, a campaign on social networks erupted.
It contained open threats to Slobodan Georgijev, a BIRN programme coordinator, alongside to those made against BIRN, Serbia’s Centre for Investigative Journalism (CINS) and Crime and Corruption Reporting Network (KRIK).
The campaign included Georgiev’s edited statements in a video clip, followed by comments describing him as “a foreign mercenary,” “a traitor,” and “an associate of the Albanian and Kosovo politicians.”
Branko Stamenkovic, Hi-Tech Crime Prosecutor, said later on Thursday “there was room for an investigation of the targeting of investigative journalists on social networks.” He said that “legally, targeting is not a crime,” but added his office was informed about the threats and was analysing whether it should be dealt with in a criminal proceeding or some other legal form.
Besides, the Informer tabloid’s cover pages were inserted in the video with headlines about BIRN’s “profitable businesses” for foreign donors, which had been dismissed by a court as untrue. The video also targeted CINS and KRIK journalists.
The statement recalled the most recent threats to three young associates of the Independent Society of Vojvodina’s Journalists (NDNV), the authors of the “Albanians are Our Sisters” 2017 documentary.
"This latest serial of threats, unfortunately, shows that a part of the public has a perception that the violence against professional journalists is allowed, if not desirable,” the Coalition statement said.
The independent Belgrade Vreme weekly staff announced a protest “Stop violence against journalists” outside the High-Tech Crime Prosecutors’ Office on Friday at 10 am and called on the colleagues to join them.
It also recalled that out of a total of 77 attacks and threats against the journalists in 2017, 2018 and 2019 only 12 were “somehow sanctioned,” and that top state officials often treated journalists with disrespect and even threaten them calling them the enemies of the state.
Later on Thursday, the Basic Prosecutor’s Office in the souther town of Leskovac dismisses the criminal charges against a local man who attacked, suffocated and dragged Dragan Marinkovic, a website Jugomedia journalist, ripping off his coat and threatening to kill him.
A Deputy Prosecutor Sladjana Randjelovic said there were no elements for criminal proceedings, that there was no physical attack.
Her decision was based on a testimony of a police officer who said the attacker did not suffocate Marinkovic, but was hugging him and that he separated the two. He also said he did not hear the attacker threatened he would kill the journalist.
Marinkovic said he was shocked and added there was a witness who told Randjelovic the man attacked him, but she decided not to start the official proceedings.
The Coalition said it “fears that in such an atmosphere with the lack of media freedom and endangerment of the professional journalists’ safety, destroyed institutions, the rising tensions and violent language which dominates in regime-supported tabloids, the consequences for society can be unforeseeable,”
The Coalition, made up of the Independent Association of Serbia’s Journalists, the Independent Society of Vojvodina’s Journalists, the Association of Independent Electronic Media, the Association Local Press, the Association of Independent Electronic Media, the Association of Online Media and Association of Media, said they would inform all international organisations about the escalation of threats and safety risk for journalists in Serbia who did their job in line with the professional ethics and standards.
The international organisations have recognised the problem with media in Serbia and appealed to the authorities to use their means against that.
Serbia's regime says it's aware of some problems in the area but attributes them to "the media diversity."