Investigative journalism under attack: CIVICUS Monitor speaks to award-winning journalist

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Our most recent CIVICUS Monitor update on Serbia highlighted the growing concern over the situation for investigative journalists in the country. As previously reported, the harassment of award-winning investigative journalist Dragana Pećo is an example of the serious risks investigative journalists face in conducting legitimate investigations into controversial and sensitive issues, such as corruption. 

On 7th July 2017, Pećo's Belgrade apartment was broken into and ransacked. Many perceive the break-in as part of a campaign to intimidate her into silence. As a journalist working for the investigative news network KRIK, much of Pećo's work has sought to expose corruption within the Serbian government. The incident also sparked debate over the unfair and discriminatory treatment of female journalists in Serbia, particularly those who report on national political developments. 

Considering the brazen violence against journalists during the inauguration of President Aleksandar Vučić in June, Serbian media professionals now report a situation wherein those working on politically sensitive issues are routinely subjected to insults, death threats and even physical violence. The environment of intimidation and the tactics used against Pećo, for example, have been widely viewed as a deliberate campaign designed to silence those critical of the government. 

In this worrisome environment and with growing fears over self-censorship among independent Serbian media outlets, the CIVICUS Monitor recently spoke to Dragana Pećo to find out more about the challenges journalists face in the country. 

*This audio interview has been edited for length.*

Pećo is an investigative journalist at the Crime and Corruption Reporting Network (KRIK) and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP). In addition to her journalism work, Pećo also works as a staff researcher for the Investigative Dashboard, OCCRP’s online platform. Before working at KRIK, Pećo reported for six years at the Centre for Investigative Reporting Serbia. She was the recipient of the Data Journalism Award 2017, three Independent Journalists’ Association of Serbia and U.S. Embassy awards for investigative journalism (in 2011, 2014 and 2016), and the Balkan Fellowship for Journalistic Excellence in 2014.