Onslaught of attacks against CSOs and journalists continues

Onslaught of attacks against CSOs and journalists continues
Journalists at an earlier press conference by President Aleksandar Vucic (Photo by REUTERS/Marko Djurica, Gallo images).

Association

In a statement to the President of the European Movement in Serbia, the Minister for European Integration, Jadranka Joksimovic, delivered a sharp assessment of Serbia's European path, suggesting that it is advancing "at a snail's pace”. Minister Joksimovic indicated that the European Movement in Serbia is lethargic and advised the President of the European Movement in Serbia to work on the modernisation of the organisation. Joksimovic suggested that the critics of the Ministry do not have adequate knowledge, energy or talent, which resulted in their departure from the state sector.

Smearing of journalists and CSOs continues

The phantom portal “Prismotra” is a platform to discredit associations and individuals, accusing them of financial embezzlement, working in the interest of foreign services and states, and acting against the state of Serbia. In examining the Independent Association of Journalists of Vojvodina (NDNV) donations, Prismotra accused NDNV of gathering separatist journalists and accused the Humanitarian Law Center, more precisely activist Natasa Kandic, of separatism. The list of donations includes those from the United States and the Rockefeller Foundation, with special attention paid to donations from Croatia to the amount of 9,073 EUR. This phantom portal also commented on the finances of the Humanitarian Law Center, insulting activist Natasa Kandic as "agent provocateur". The text, which presents a full list of alleged donations, points out that only ten employees work in this association, which disposes of several million euros. The portal indicates that it will publicly reveal all the members of this association and their responsibilities.

The portal continued with negative media reporting towards civil society organisations (CSOs), media, journalists, politicians and activists. One of the texts featured on the portal deals with the topic "Who are the foreign spies in Serbia?", listing Nikola Burazer, director of the Center for Contemporary Politics, Emina Muminović, editor of the portal "European Western Balkans", Aleksandar Ivković, project assistant at the Center for Contemporary Politics and Nikola Cuckić, a project assistant for Center for Contemporary Politics. The same portal also published a text accusing the Director of "CEKOR", Natasa Đereg, of being a high-ranking member of the sect called "Art of living" and of recruiting people for the sect. The text accuses her of taking money from the people of Subotica for fake medical services. The organisation "Libertarian Club - LIBEK" was also the target of an attack. The club is accused of recruiting young people through lectures and seminars, but also by providing scholarships with the help of professors at certain faculties. Among other things, they are accused of spreading anti-Serbian propaganda and receiving suspicious financing from foreign sources.

Expression

Journalists continue to be targeted by the Prismotra portal. The portal published an article about Brankica Stankovic, an investigative journalist. Unknown authors accuse Stankovic, who they claim is a favourite among "chauvinists", of using information for racketeering, that is, she publicly kept silent about information she had on politicians in exchange for money. It is suggested that, while she is a journalist for "Luxembourg television N1", she is also a mobster.

The trend of physical and verbal attacks and threats against journalists in Serbia has continued.

  • In Novi Pazar, the editor of the "S news" portal, Medin Halilović, was threatened by an unknown person that he would be ‘covered by bullets’. The threat was allegedly made near the police, who failed to react.
  • The media team of TV Sabac was also attacked during the reporting of the repeated elections at 27 polling stations.
  • Death threats via social networks were also directed towards the director of "Newsmax Adria", Slobodan Georgijev, in response to the announcement of the guest appearance of the current president of Montenegro.
  • The Third Basic Public Prosecutor's Office in Belgrade issued a warrant against the presenter Tatjana Vojtehovski for not responding to a court summons. In her show, “Life Story” in 2016, Vojtehovski shared her scepticism of court cases granting child custody, particularly in disputed proceedings, as the same names of the lawyer, expert and judge appeared in the cases. One of the cases she mentioned also referred to the dispute between the former mayor of Belgrade and the current Minister of Finance, and his wife. In 2017, Vojtehovski testified in court as a citizen, after which court summons were sent to the address of Television Prva, despite her no longer working there. On a later date, Vojtehovski responded to the court's summons and the arrest warrant was revoked, but the indictment against her is still in force due to the suspicion that she committed a criminal offence by violating data secrecy. Vojtehovski has long been the target of pro-government tabloids and institutions due to the exposure of numerous scandals and topics on her show, which was removed from the television's programme shortly after the sale of Television Prva without adequate explanation.
  • Journalist Ruzdija Sabotic staged a hunger strike in front of the General Hospital in Novi Pazar in an attempt to gain information on COVID-19 deaths and how donated funds were spent during the last year. Sabotic ended the strike due to deteriorating health. During the strike, there was an incident when a journalist of the "S news" portal, Medin Halilovic, was attacked, with an unknown man making death threats. The police who were near the scene did not react, which is why Halilovic submitted complaints to the Internal Control Service of the Ministry of the Interior, the OSCE Mission to Serbia, human rights organisations and journalists' associations in Serbia.
  • Amir Numanovic, the director of the Sandzak TV network from Tutin, was attacked by a man who was dissatisfied with a previous broadcast report. Numanovic received numerous insults and threats and was physically confronted by the man. The disputed report was about the collection of money from locals for the construction of a road in the village of Dobri dub in Tutin and the suggestion that there was embezzlement as the money never ended up in the local government's coffers.
  • The “Info Vranjske” portal, and in particular journalist Slavomire Kostic, have faced public vilification. A Serbian politician issued a statement in which he labels Kostic as an “idiot on duty” and calls the “Info Vranjske” portal "anti-Serbian and anti-state media". The Independent Association of Journalists of Serbia condemned these attacks, stating that the security, freedom of work and expression of journalists of the “Info Vranjske” portal are seriously endangered. They sent an appeal to the permanent Working Group for the safety of journalists, as well as international associations of journalists and media from whom they expect an urgent response. The statement said:
“Professional and independent journalists are increasingly exposed to pressure, threats and physical attacks, which is best illustrated by the fact that since the beginning of the year we have recorded 147 incidents against journalists in our database of attacks on journalists, of which 27 were attacks, 39 verbal threats. nine threats and attacks on property and 72 pressures.” (translated from Bosnian).
  • The journalist team of N1 television was attacked by the security of Aseko company during the recording of a report about a loan involving the company. The security worker tried to prevent the camera operator from recording and threatened him. The report was filmed as part of the news involving a claim made by opposition politician Marinika Tepic that Aseko, the company where the brother of the Prime Minister Ana Brnabic works, received 180 million dinars for a project of the IT office. The company later apologised to the channel.
  • The Director, Zlatko Paković, and actors of the play “Srebenica. When we killed, get up” experienced backlash from tabloids and nationalists. One reason for these attacks has been attributed to a scene in which the Serbian flag is placed on the floor and the names of the victims of the genocide in Srebrenica are written on it. Several death threats and insults were sent to the cast via social media. The cast was called "sold souls", "freaks", "traitors" (...), with messages that they should be “set up”, “severely punished” and “expelled.” Attacks were also directed towards the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, which organised the performance. The Committee said that an urgent response from the authorities was necessary and that despite the attacks they would attempt to continue performing this play.
"The goal of these cruel and vulgar threats is aimed at preventing further performances in Serbia. They want to silence the critical part of society that talks about the most traumatic processes and events in the recent history of the region, primarily about the historical and political responsibility of Serb intellectual elites for war and crimes against the Bosniak population, including genocide, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, "the statement said. (translated from Bosnian)

The Independent Association of Journalists of Serbia also issued a statement, emphasising that this incident is a reflection of the atmosphere of violence and intolerance, for which the government is responsible.

The attacks against the actors also continued through the phantom portal "Prismotra.net" .