The South and East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South East and Central Europe and an affiliate of the International Press Institute (IPI) is deeply concerned about, and strongly condemns, the recent telephone and Email threats to the Croatian weekly Novosti.
According to information received by SEEMO, on 6 October 2010 the weekly Novosti, which ispublished by the Serbian national minority in Croatia, received numerous phone calls and E-mails in which anonymous persons went as far as posing death threats to the Novosti staff members.
The threats appear to have been prompted by the cover page of the latest issue of Novosti, which refers to a recent incident in which two Croatian military aircraft collided and crashed, seriously injuring one person. The cover page featured two MiG planes and a title: "Both of them, both are down!" This particular cover page triggered strong anti- Novosti verbal reactions in Croatia from several public persons, including military officials.
Oliver Vujovic, SEEMO Secretary General, said: "SEEMO would like to reiterate that the media should have full freedom to report on a topic and to decide how they should editorially cover a story."
He added: "In addition, everyone in society has the right to criticize the reporting by a media outlet and if a form of reporting is against the law, there are legal instruments in every country which have to be respected. But any form of pressure from individuals against a media outlet, or forms of verbal attack, are not acceptable. High-level military persons can make critical remarks about a media outlet as private persons, out of duty, but should not criticise a media outlet from a public position - which can be dangerous for democratic developments in a country. Furthermore, public persons should know that verbal attacks on a minority media can have a long-term negative impact not only on relations between both a minority and a majority in a country but also for the security of those people belonging to a national minority."
SEEMO urges the Croatian authorities to conduct a thorough police investigation into the threats received by the newsroom of the weekly Novosti, since modern-day communications technology allows the authorities to acquire information about the senders of E-mails.
SEEMO supports the statement by the Croatian Journalists' Association (HND) in which it demands that the authorities, including the police, provide full protection and safety to Novosti staff members.