The Center for Ecology and Sustainable Development- CEKOR" is a target of a smear campaign on the phantom portal "Prismotra.net". The text accuses the association and its activists of being informers of foreign services, tasked to work against the interests of Chinese investments in Serbia. The text labels CEKOR as “the economic killers of Serbia”. In addition, during the reporting period journalist faced several verbal threats and insults, including from President Aleksandar Vučić and other ministerial officials. There is a noticeable trend of an increasing number of threats towards journalists. In just one week during August 2020 as many as five cases of attacks on journalists were recorded.
The Directorate for the Prevention of Money Laundering at the Ministry of Finance has compiled a list of organisations and individuals and asked banks to inspect all their transactions in the last year. In this way, the Administration activated the mechanism provided by law in order to investigate these organisations’ possible participation in "money laundering" or terrorist financing. The list includes 20 individuals and 37 organisations or associations who are known for doing work which is critical of the current regime (see previous update for full details).
CSO and its activists targeted
The phantom portal "Prismotra.net" published two texts which accused the "Center for Ecology and Sustainable Development - CEKOR" and its activists of being informers of foreign services, tasked to work against the interests of Chinese investments in Serbia. The text labels CEKOR as “the economic killers of Serbia”. Apart from targeting the organisation itself, which is accused of cooperating with the "Bosnian intelligence service", the text also targets several activists of that association. The legal representative of CEKOR pointed out that not only does the text damage the reputation of the organisation, but it also seeks to intimidate the activists. The association became the target of attacks, among other things, due to its criticism of the company Electric Power Industry of Serbia, which rejected every request for access to information about the work conducted by the company. The second text alleges that CEKOR received money for non-existent projects.
This case is just one in a series of tabloid attacks against all those associations that are committed to transparency in their work and who are demanding answers from the competent authorities to questions concerning the safety, health and general well-being of the citizens of Serbia. Lately, the matrix of attacks, which are mostly organised with the logistical help of phantom sites and portals where unsigned texts are published, are becoming more visible. This makes it even more difficult for disinterested bodies to find the perpetrators responsible for these attacks, which leads to such actions going unpunished.
During the reporting period, anti-government protests were staged following an announcement of the re-introduction of a curfew due to the worsening of the epidemiological situation related to COVID-19. A full update on what unfolded during these protests can be found here.
Also according to our joint @CoEMediaFreedom Annual report, in #Serbia, the number of attacks on media, including death threats, is on the rise, and inflammatory rhetoric often comes from public officials: https://t.co/4W1wA8wvBI @EuropeElects https://t.co/nFU6zj2kG4— ECPMF (@ECPMF) June 22, 2020
Several verbal threats against journalists were documented during the reporting period:
“Journalists and other media actors make an important contribution to public debate and opinion-forming processes in a democratic society by acting as public and social guardians and creating a common space for the exchange of information and ideas, as well as for discussion. Their role as guardians includes, inter alia, informing the public about matters of public interest, commenting on these matters, holding public authorities and other powerful forces in society accountable, and exposing corruption and abuse of power.”- NUNS
📣 Probušena guma na vozilu urednika TV N1— NUNS (@NUNS_1994) August 15, 2020
👉🏼 Uredniku TV N1 Branislavu Šovljanskom isečena je guma sa pet uboda oštrim predmetom na privatnom automobilu u ulici Palmira Toljatija u Beogradu, u blizini stana u kome živi. Slučaj je prijavljen policiji koja je brzo postupila... ⬇️
[#SafeJournalists]— NUNS (@NUNS_1994) August 19, 2020
❗️〽️U periodu od nedelju dana u Srbiji je registrovano pet incidenata u kojima je targetirano šest novinara, uključujući fizički napad, pretnje smrću oružjem, upad u imovinu i pretnje smrću članovima porodice, bušenje guma...https://t.co/qfQGX4ngaB
“NGOs and the media will continue to work in accordance with the mission and vision of civil society in the fight for a democratic and free environment, regardless of unbearable conditions and polluted public space.” (translated from Bosnian)
“It is encouraging to see Serbian law enforcement responding quickly to the attack on journalist Jeton Ismaili and his family. Authorities must follow through on the case and ensure those responsible are held to account. Threatening a journalist because of his coverage is completely unacceptable, and Serbian authorities must ensure the safety of Ismaili and his family.” - Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, in New York.