SERBIA: Worsening situation for journalists in Serbia and Croatia

SERBIA, SERBIA, 30/08/2006, 14:50

The Vienna-based South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South East Europe and an affiliate of the International Press Institute (IPI), is deeply concerned about the worsening situation for journalists in Serbia and Croatia.

In Serbia, SEEMO has registered the following attacks and threats against journalists, prison sentences given to journalists, as well as restrictions on the free access to information:

- On 13 July, Jelena Antic, Ruma correspondent for the daily Dnevnik, was prevented from attending a press conference at the Ruma City Hall by security officers, who were acting on the orders of the President of the Municipality, Srdjan Nikolic.

- On 25 July, Jahja Fehratovic, editor of the weekly Glas Sandjaka, received anonymous death threats over the phone.

- At the beginning of August, Slavko Savic, director of the local TV Kursumlija, was given a four-month conditional prison sentence for libel, although the information broadcast by his station was correct.

- On 13 August, Nikola Rumenic, journalist for the weekly Svet, was physically attacked and injured by two perpetrators in front of the hotel Jugoslavija in Belgrade.

- On 13 August, Dusanka Novkovic, Pozarevac correspondent for the daily Kurir, received threats over the phone by a priest of the Serbian Orthodox Church, who was dissatisfied with her writing in an article titled, "Priest Has Beaten Up a Priest".

- On 17 August, Dragan Zaric, journalist for Radio Stari Milanovac, was physically attacked while moderating a radio show. A masked perpetrator entered the studio and attacked Zaric with a knife.

In  Croatia, SEEMO has registered the following cases:

- On 23 June, Ad Van Denderen, a Dutch photographer, was beaten up by five unknown men on a beach near Split while taking photographs. He was seriously injured and had to seek medical treatment in a hospital. Afterwards, he went to a local police station in Split where he was not allowed to file an official complaint.

- On 12 July, Ladislav Tomicic, a journalist for Novi list daily, received an anonymous letter containing death threats directed at him and his family.

- In July, Vitomir Peric, Sinj correspondent for Jutarnji list daily and Croatian Radio, was insulted and threatened in a restaurant by Velibor Milosevic, a local politician. Peric had already received anonymous death threats over the phone.

- On 25 July, Kristina Tesija, a journalist for Nova TV, was verbally and physically attacked by Ivan Dabo, mayor of the town of Novalja, from where the journalist was reporting about water shortages for the evening news.

Speaking about these incidents, Oliver Vujovic, SEEMO Secretary General said, "SEEMO strongly condemns these threats and attacks on journalists, as well as all activities which restrict free journalistic work and movement. I am very concerned about the worsening of the working conditions of journalists in Croatia and Serbia, in particular because in many cases it is clear that the pressure was exerted by political representatives. Furthermore, in several cases, the police did not react properly."

Vujovic added, "If both countries would like to become members of the European Union, the local politicians and courts, as well as police, must do everything in their power to provide safe working conditions for journalists."

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