SERBIA: Wave of violent attacks on journalists - Serbia

SERBIA, SERBIA, 28/02/2008, 10:35

To: Vojislav Kostunica, 

Prime Minister of Serbia

Vojislav Kostunica
Prime Minister of Serbia
Nemanjina 11
Belgrade
Serbia  

Fax: +381 11 3617 609  

Your Excellency, 

The Vienna-based South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists from South East Europe and an affiliate of the International Press Institute (IPI), is alarmed about the recent wave of violent attacks on journalists in Serbia. 

According to information before SEEMO, journalists reporting on the protest "Kosovo je Srbija", held on 21 February 2008 as a reaction to Kosovo's proclamation of independence, were subjected to serious physical attacks. A photojournalist from Holland's NRC Handelsblad, Dirk-Jan Visser, sustained broken ribs, while two Russian journalists from Russia Today, an English-language TV station, also suffered physical injuries. In addition, the crew of Radio Televizija Srbije (RTS) was attacked during a separate protest.  

In the meantime, Serbian radio and television station B92 has received written threats ever since Kosovo's declaration of independence, including a montage video, posted on YouTube, which juxtaposed images of guns firing with footage of B92 anchors. On 20 February, B92 received a bomb threat by e-mail, forcing the staff's evacuation. The following day, protesters surrounded the B92 building at 6pm, trapping the staff inside until well after midnight. Thankfully, police officers managed to prevent attacks on the building.  

Moreover, according to information before SEEMO, on 25 February 2008, Milica Ivanovic, a journalist for Beta news agency and the newspaper Blic, was attacked while reporting on the unrest at the Mutivoda crossing between Serbia and Kosovo. When the journalist asked for protection from police officers standing nearby, her request was refused. According to reports, a B92 cameraman who was also present avoided harm by removing the station's logo from his camera after hearing members of the crowd asking about the B92 crew.  

SEEMO strongly condemns these repeated and targeted attacks on journalists in Serbia, as well as the failure of the police force to adequately protect them. Journalists must never become targets, regardless of their reporting style or their background. Furthermore, any attacks must carry consequences and be fully investigated.  We urge Your Excellency to do everything in your power to provide a secure environment for journalists, and to remind all involved of the importance of the media's freedom to report on current events, which ensures the Serbian people's right to information, and is a crucial element in a free democracy.  

We thank you for your attention. 

Yours sincerely,  

Oliver Vujovic

SEEMO Secretary General

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