A number of Serbian journalists expressed dissatisfaction and fear with attitudes towards them and their work on Friday following several attempts to label them as traitors and mercenaries, intimidate and threaten them.
Speaking during a protest in front of the Hi-Tech Prosection offices in Belgrade, investigative journalist Slobodan Georgiev and BIRN investigative portal editor told N1 that prosecutors are not willing to act on charges filed by journalists from media which are not close to the authorities. He said he did not file charges following the latest threats against him because nothing happened with any of the charges filed earlier “because the threats come from people close to the authorities”.
Georgiev was labelled traitor and liar in a video posted on the Twitter profile of a supporter of the Serbian authorities following a BIRN story about alleged links between President Aleksandar Vucic’s brother Andrej and a Kosovo Serb businessman alleged to be linked to crime. He said the first attacks against BIRN came from then Prime Minister Vucic following a story about the take-over of the Serbian national airways by Etihad, adding that the pro-government Informer tabloid then labelled BIRN as spies. Georgiev said he called Vucic after that and asked him to look to his party and was told that he would see what he could do.
“If the prosecutors launched an investigation into the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) Internet team we would consider this protest a success,” he said.
Vreme journalist Tamara Skrozza said the biggest problem is that the judiciary can keep quiet about threats to journalists. The gathering was organized by Vreme weekly following a number of attacks by officials on Skrozza. She said the attacks and threats are a form of praise. “One day we will be proud that people like this insulted us,” she said.
Branko Cecen, head of the Serbian Centre for Investigative Journalism (CINS) warned that journalists are facing serious threats. “The death of a journalist in Serbia is not hypothetical, it has happened three times already. I expect the prosecution to protect us but after all these threats and reactions I’m not sure I can trust the prosecutors any longer,” he said.
Journalist and documentary movie author Sanja Kljajic told the N1 morning show on Friday that none of the Serbian journalists who take their job seriously feels safe. Klajic, Vanja Djuric and Milena Popovic were attacked on the Istraga.rs web site over their film Albanians Our Sisters and labelled as journalists who shamed Serbia.
“It’s hard for any of the journalists who do their job responsibly to feel safe,” she said, commenting the threats in the comments to the story on Istraga.rs. “We have heard a lot of comments claiming that these are just empty threats but you can never be sure who saw them, who is behind them and if they can really cause a physical assault on the street,” she said.
Nedim Sejdinovic, outgoing head of the Independent Society of Journalists of Vojvodina (NDNV), said that facing the past is a taboo in Serbia as are links between the authorities and criminal groups. “Anyone who investigates these topics gets told that this is a forbidden area,” he told the N1 morning show.
He said that he expects no reaction from the authorities, adding that the threats were reported but the prosecution and police did not do their job. He blamed the authorities for what he called an atmosphere of violence. “It all comes from the top ranks of power. The authorities are absolutely responsible for the atmosphere of fear and violence,” Nedimovic said.