The Vienna-based South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), an affiliate of the International Press Institute(IPI), condemns the latest insults against journalists launched by Velimir Ilic, leader of the New Serbia party, and potential minister in the upcoming coalition government. Ilic has insulted reporters on several occasions over the past ten years and in 2003 he hit a journalist during an interview.
The latest incident involving Ilic occurred on 17 July 2012 during a press conference. Targeting the host of the high-profile talk show, Olja Beckovic, Ilic said that he would find someone to re-educate the reporter and continued: “I no longer understand Mrs. Olja Beckovic, what it is that she wants from me. Is she normal, is she healthy – and I am asking those responsible people at B92 to send her to analysis,” according to the B92 website. In 2002, Ilic publicly insulted Beckovic with vulgar chauvinist language. B92 is a well-known radio and television broadcaster in Serbia.
Ilic has had a hostile attitude towards the media since he entered public life, first as a mayor of Cacak (1996-2004), a town 140 kilometers south of Belgrade, and then as a government minister (2004-2008). He has insulted, threatened and even hit journalists. In May 2012, the court fined him for hitting Vladimir Jesic from TV Apolo during the interview in 2003.
On 19 August 2005, to note one example, SEEMO sent a public letter to the then prime minister, Vojislav Kostunica, demanding an investigation into the alleged threats by Ilic and his media advisor Zoran Lazovic against B92. Ilic said during the press conference that B92 journalists “were sick and needed psychiatric treatment”, and right after the press conference Lazovic approached the reporter Ana Veljkovic and told her to convey to the B92 director, Veran Matic, that he would kill him.
“I call on party leaders in Serbia to stop threatening and insulting journalists. Respecting press freedom is an essential part of democracy and a fundamental criteria for joining the European Union, “said SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic.