[artinfo] Statement in view of the threats to B92 journalists and newsroom staff

by way of Janos Sugar mediawatch at lists.opennet.org
Thu Dec 10 17:46:23 CET 2009

Statement in view of the threats to B92 journalists and newsroom staff

Attacks on B92 and threats to the authors of the B92 Insider
investigative journalism show have become even more intensive and
brutal, showing no signs of abating even after Serbian President Boris
Tadic’s statement yesterday that the state would not tolerate violence
by hooligans and criminals. Tadic pointed out that the state took all
the measures necessary to protect journalists going on to say that the
state organs would respond in accordance with the law to arrest and
prosecute anyone threatening other people’s lives. Minister of
Interior Ivica Daèic said that the police took all the measures needed
to identify the persons behind the threats to B92. Minister of Justice
Snežana Maloviæ also called for the perpetrators to be tracked down
and severely punished.

The most recent wave of threats, particularly in social networks
online, but also in the form of graffiti sprayed on Belgrade walls,
whereby the authors of the Insider show were threatened with rape,
slaughter and murder, came about following the broadcast of the
investigative journalism show’s first episode entitled
“Power(lessness) of the State” last Thursday featuring leaders of
football fan groups whose ban had been recently requested  by the
state prosecutor.    This episode presented the content of over a
hundred criminal charges against the leaders of football fan groups
filed by the police in recent years which, as a rule, have failed to
result in effective convictions in a court of law.  The B92 newsroom
came into possession of the information thanks exclusively to the
Access to Information Act, and through comparative analysis of the
available information the crucial problem was presented to the public
– which is the absence of response on the part of the justice system
failing to ensure security and safety of the citizens in this country.

Threatening, brutal, vulgar and primitive reactions of these criminals
and their followers after the broadcast of the first episode and
public statements by senior state officials testify to the fact that
they feel secure, beyond the reach of justice. They are effectively
sending threatening messages to the institutions of the system
themselves, to the democratic processes, thus revealing a dominant
ideological background of these groups and individuals drawing on
xenophobic racism, anti-Europeanism and contempt for democracy, while
their sexist obsession indicate that these are sociopaths suffering
from serious disorders with solely one thing in common – violence.

B92 would like to remind the public that our media company has been
constantly exposed to threats and attacks. They were particularly
vicious and intense at the times of the unilateral declaration of
Kosovo’s independence, Radovan Karadžiæ’s arrest, the gay pride parade
which was ultimately cancelled, recent assaults on foreigners and the
brutal murder of Brice Tatton, a French citizen, in Belgrade city
centre for which the individuals portrayed in The Insider show were
charged with. The attacks on B92 ranged from hooligans’ assault on the
B92 building and arson attack to physical attacks on our journalists
and associates culminating in serious physical injuries inflicted to
our cameraman during B92 coverage of the protest against the arrest of
Radovan Karadžiæ.

The police have been guarding the B92 building for the past year and a
half. Often some of our journalists have to be provided with direct
police protection and escort. Given the circumstances and conditions
in which our journalists and newsrooms are working, it is indeed
pointless to speak about the state of media freedoms in Serbia. The
statements by the President of the Republic, Minister of Interior and
other most senior state officials claiming that the state would not
tolerate violence as well as that those responsible for the threats
and attacks would be identified and prosecuted are welcome, but they
are not enough. In the case of attacks on B92, we may no longer speak
of isolated incidents but constant pressure to which the B92 employees
have been exposed to, while the public at large has borne witness to
it in the past years. The physical security of the building and
protection provided  by the police for the journalists who are the
most at risk are not enough because it is obvious that no one can
effectively protect about fifty professional journalists who have to
do their job every day. It is neither possible to constantly monitor
dozens of football fan groups that were mentioned in The Insider
series. It is necessary that this state, if it is truly committed to
democratic reforms and European future, finally expose the individuals
behind the attacks on the professional media outlets as well as to
bring those responsible to justice.

B92 calls on the democratic public, journalist and media associations,
human rights groups in the country and abroad to show solidarity with
the journalists of this media company that are subjected to threats,
as well as our request for the Serbian government to ensure the
conditions in which the journalists of B92 and all other media in
Serbia would be able to report to the public on the issues of public
interest, but without fear for their lives and personal safety.

Veran Matiæ
B92 CEO and editor-in-chief


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