SEE: SEEMO alarmed at growing number of press freedom violations in South East Europe

SEE, SEE, 10/02/2013, 08:25

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), an affiliate of the International Press Institute (IPI), is alarmed at the number of press freedom violations in South East Europe in recent months. Additionally, SEEMO is worried that some media are not respecting basic professional standards, and are thus endangering colleagues from other media.

Milorad Dodik, president of the Republika Srpska in Bosnia and Herzegovina, verbally attacked, in a phone call and using coarse language, Vlado Trsic, director of the BN TV channel from Bijljina. It is not the first time that Dodik’s behavior has been unbecoming of a politician – he has reacted similarly in the past when unhappy with media reports.

On 14 January, 2013, Etelva Skonja, a famous investigative journalist from the daily Kosova Sot from Pristina, met Zef Prendrecaj, a member of the Judicial Council of Kosovo, at his office for an interview. During the conversation Prendrecaj called security who took Skonja to the police station. She spent more than three hours there, and half an hour after she was released she received a phone call from a policeman ordering her to return to the police station. She went with a lawyer, and they were informed that she had to remain under arrest after a call from the prosecutor.  She was detained for  further six hours.

The editor-in-chief of Kosova Sot, Margarita Kadriu, contacted the district prosecutor and thanks to his help Skonja was released the same day.

Skonja was arrested after she recorded the interview with Prendrecaj in his office during an official appointment. As the newspaper learned, off the record, the idea behind the arrest was to scare Skonja, who was investigating the work of several judges.

On 5 February 2013, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov attacked journalists at an informal press meeting with the words “I can give instructions to the secret services to launch similar cases for all of you journalists, without exception”, as the news agency BGNES reported. This was the reaction of the prime minister after the webpage Bivol.bg published details about his alleged activities in the 1990s. According to Bivol the police used Borisov as an informant with the code name of “Buddha” while he was chief of a security company.

“Political representatives and persons working for public and state institutions must be open to communication with journalists, without using any form of pressure against them, said SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic. “Arresting journalists who are doing their job, but also the making, by politicians, of verbal threats against journalists is not acceptable and a clear attack on press freedom, freedom of speech and freedom of reporting.”

SEEMO is also worried about the fact that one daily newspaper in the Republic of Macedonia / Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has asked its readers to name which journalists they think are gay. Given how often members of the LGBT community are attacked in this part of the world, including physical attacks, it was a clear step of putting the life of the named journalists in danger.

In Serbia, in recent weeks, there have been clear public verbal attacks on staff members of the public radio and TV company in Vojvodina (Radio televizija Vojvodine – RTV) and members of the Independent Journalists Association of Vojvodina (Nezavisno drustvo novinara Vojvodine – NDNV) by one magazine and several internet portals, using, in the attacks, the ethnic background of these persons. It was a clear form of discrimination and hate speech, endangering the journalists targeted.

“Media must work responsibly and not endanger journalists by using hate speech or by presenting them as members of a specific ethnic or other minority group,” said Vujovic. “We should not forget that as a result of hate speech in media there have been physical attacks against - but also murders of - journalists in the past.”

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