April 23, 2024

23.04.2024 – Challanges and Solutions: Ensuring Journalists’ Safety in the Face of Increasing Threats

In the first three months of last year, the Supreme Public Prosecutor’s Office in Belgrade, Serbia opened nine cases related to threats against journalists’ safety, while in the first three months, twenty cases were initiated against 23 individuals engaged in public interest activities in the field of journalism, with 10 male and 13 female victims. In 14 cases, threats were made online, accounting for 70% of the total, with a majority targeting female journalists. Last year, there was one case of relocating a journalist safely out of the country, one intervention to improve the security of a journalist’s residence, and this year, private security has been engaged in two cases pending a security assessment by the Ministry of Interior. In two cases, a first-instance or final court decision was made against the perpetrators, while requests for gathering necessary information were filed in 17 cases, one case is undergoing evidentiary proceedings, and two cases were dismissed.

These findings were disclosed during a session of the Stalna Radna Grupa Za Bezbednost Novinara (Permanent Working Group for Journalists’ Safety – https://bezbedninovinari.rs/), organized by Asocijacija Nezavisnih Novinara Elektronskih Medija (Association Of Independent Electronic Media – ANEM – http://www.anem.rs/en.html) on 19 April 2024 in Novi Sad, Serbia which identified Novi Sad as the city with the highest incidents of threats against journalists. The threats persist, exacerbating the lack of effective protection and further distressing the journalistic community. In the case of the physical expulsion of journalist Verica Marinčić working for IN Media (https://inmedija.rs/) from the municipal building in Inđija, the competent prosecutor from StaraPazova requested additional information from the police. Verica, in an emotional testimony, described a constant sense of insecurity, noting that out of four previously reported cases, only one resulted in a conviction. Besides direct threats and assaults, she now faces threats of losing her land in Krčedin, Serbia and repeated desecration of her mother’s grave. You can see the link of article that SEEMO wrote about this case here: https://www.facebook.com/share/wtAtNkWMs548YSm8/?mibextid=WC7FNe

Similar sentiments of helplessness were echoed by journalist Gordana Momčilović Ilić, who received threats while on duty, followed by further attacks on social media after reporting to the police and prosecutor’s office. You can read SEEMO article about this case here: https://www.facebook.com/share/8esLCmqARfRuyxvR/?mibextid=WC7FNe. Ksenija Pavkov journalist from N1 (https://n1info.rs/) highlighted threats originating from a Telegram channel with approximately 80,000 members, mentioning initial reports and subsequent false allegations published during a faculty blockade. You can read the SEEMO article about this case here: https://www.facebook.com/share/mTBNru3KUeGofPZS/?mibextid=WC7FNe.

Radio 021(https://www.021.rs/) decided to cease coverage of a case following threats to their journalist ŽarkoBogosavljević during coverage of protests.

Sava Majstorov of SOinfo (https://www.soinfo.org/) spoke of hacking attacks on their website and the subsequent threats, insults, and attacks he endured. He also mentioned self-censorship due to concerns for journalists’ safety. Aleksandar Momčilović, a prosecutor specializing in high-tech crime, outlined challenges in obtaining data from major foreign companies controlling social media platforms.

Slobodan Josimović from the Higher Public Prosecutor’s Office in Novi Sad, Serbia mentioned one unresolved case from 2020, involving offensive and threatening graffiti outside Dinko Gruhonjić’s residence. Veljko Milić, a member of the Permanent Working Group and a lawyer, emphasized the need to change judicial practices and the Criminal Code to better protect journalists.

In conclusion, Veran Matić stressed the necessity of institutional protection for journalists like Ana Lalić Hegediš who is president of the Independent Journalists’ Association of Vojvodina (Nezavisno Društvo Novinara Vojvodine – NDNV – https://ndnv.org) and Nova.rs (https://nova.rs/) journalist and Dinko Gruhonjić who is Program Director of the Independent Journalists’ Association of Vojvodina (NDNV – https://ndnv.org/), journalist at Autonomija portal (https://autonomija.info/), and University professor in Novi Sad, Serbia, who face severe threats and attacks. He emphasized the role of the police in preventive action to prevent physical harm and underscored the importance of solidarity among journalists, legal experts, and civil society organizations in ensuring journalists’ safety and preserving freedom of expression. You can read the articles that SEEMO wrote about this cases here: https://www.facebook.com/share/ZhuFbEoEW2TH4NNe/?mibextid=WC7FNe ; https://www.facebook.com/share/oCzMVu5KmHnkmVQX/?mibextid=WC7FNe

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), stands in solidarity with the journalists facing unprecedented threats to their safety and well-being. The alarming rise in incidents targeting journalists demands urgent attention and effective action from authorities across the region. SEEMO calls for comprehensive measures to ensure the protection of journalists, including swift and thorough investigations into threats and attacks, accountability for perpetrators, and proactive steps to prevent future incidents. SEEMO remains committed to advocating for the safety and security of journalists.

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