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

SEE, 17/04/2013

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), an affiliate of the International Press Institute (IPI), is concerned at the number of press freedom violations, and the pressure directed at the media, in South East Europe in recent weeks.

In Albania on 7 April 2013, a cameraman for one of the country’s leading TV channels, Top Channel, who covered a football match between Tirana and Skenderbeu, was allegedly beaten by police, stopped from filming and taken to a Tirana police station where he was allegedly beaten by high-ranking police officers. This happened after an incident involving the football fans and police, when the Top Channel cameraman was waiting fans who had been detained to come out. According to the police, the cameraman was taken to the police office because he refused to identify himself, no violence was used, and after he was identified he was immediately released. Top Channel rejects these declarations as untrue.

SEEMO notes that this is not the first attack on Top Channel. In March this year the studios of the channel were surrounded by police as a result of a state decision, without prior notice, to terminate a rental contract with Top Channel. Top Channel received a letter from a minister with a one-sided termination of the rent contract - which had in theory been valid until 2025.  
Meanwhile, in Trebinje, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, on 14 April 2013, a bishop from the Serbian Orthodox Church verbally attacked Nebojsa Vukanovic, a correspondent for the BN TV channel, apparently because he was displeased by the journalist’s reporting. “If I were to judge you, it would be a knockout, so it is better that you be judged by Saint Vasilije,” the bishop said, according to media reports. The bishop also suggested that journalists were maligning Trebinje, naming Vukanovic as an example.

SEEMO is also concerned at the threats, including death threats, against the journalist Predrag Lucic made on various web portals in Bosnia and Herzegovina. This is not the first time that web portals in Bosnia and Herzegovina have been used for death threats against journalists.

In another development, SEEMO is surprised to hear that Bulgarian journalist Boris Mitov, who works for Mediapool, was summoned on 5 April 2013 to the prosecutor's office for questioning over one of his reports. This appears to be a clear-cut case of pressure directed at a journalist.

SEEMO is also surprised to hear that on 11 April 2013,without prior announcement, cable platform IPKO moved national licensed broadcaster Kohavision (KTV) from Pristina from the position of channel three to that of channel 83 in the cable system, in addition preventing viewers from rearranging and listing the channels as they wish. KTV, one of the only three national broadcasters, has thus been reclassified in the category of local broadcasters.

SEEMO calls on the Kosovo authorities to investigate an attack with automatic weapons on the building and studio of the radio station Kolasin in Zubin Potok in Kosovo, which occurred on 16 April 2013 in the morning hours.
SEEMO welcomes the police investigation into, and criminal charges brought against, the chief of the heating plant of the City of Nis in Serbia, and two other persons, after death threats against Predrag Blagojevic, a journalist and web editor of Juzne vesti.

SEEMO Secretary- General Oliver Vujovic urges Serbian authorities to keep the promise they made to investigate the three unsolved killings of journalists in Serbia: Radislava Dada Vulasinovic; Slavko Curuvija; and Milan Pantic. The authorities in Belgrade must ensure that both the perpetrators and masterminds are prosecuted after so many years. Vujasinovic was killed in 1994, Curuvija in1999 and Pantic in 2001.

Finally, SEEMO is concerned at the circumstances under which Denis Latin, Ruzica Renic and Katja Kusec were relieved of their positions within the Croatian public broadcaster Hrvatska Radio Televiija (HRT) in March this year. Vujovic calls on the government and the HRT management to refrain from any action that could lead to censorship and threaten editorial independence.
 
Speaking of the regional surge in press freedom violations as a whole, Vujovic said: "I urge the authorities to create a safe environment for journalists, to investigate all forms of attacks and threats against journalists, and to cease activities that could make the work of journalists harder. Different views, and investigative reporting, need to be accepted, promoted and supported by state authorities, including through transparent investigations into all forms of attacks on journalists".

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