Bosnian Police Official Faces Suspension for Threatening Reporters
The Interior Minister of one of the two regions that comprise Bosnia and Herzegovina called on Friday for the immediate suspension of one of his subordinates after he attacked two investigative journalists who were seeking a comment from him about his illegal real estate purchases.
Interior Minister Aljoša Čampara demanded an immediate decision on the suspension of the head of the Uniformed Police Division of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Police Administration, Zoran Čegar, the Ministry said in a statement.
Čegar snapped at journalists from Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Center for Investigative Reporting (CIN) – the first organization of its kind established in the Balkans and a founding member of OCCRP – after the reporters who worked on the investigation approached him on Wednesday in front of the Municipal Court in Dubrovnik, Croatia, where he is being tried for fraud.
They asked Čegar for a comment as he was leaving the court building but he started swearing and insulting CIN’s reporter Azhar Kalamujić and then lashed out at Kalamujić’s colleague Renata Radić.
“Don’t make me rip your throat out,” Čegar threatened her in front of his lawyer.
Only a few days before Čegar’s trial in Dubrovnik began, CIN published its investigation on how he acquired properties worth millions in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) and Croatia.
Zoran Čegar, regarded as a hero of the country’s 1992-1995 war and one of the organizers of the defense of Sarajevo, revealed his other face, according to CIN’s investigation, that of “a hard-bitten realtor.”
“Over the past 20 years of the service, he acquired several houses, apartments, and land in BiH and Croatia, and his possessions also included several cars, boats, motorcycles, and snowmobiles,” the story alleged.
It also claimed that Čegar often traded properties with other owners without money and often without even owning them properly.
Currently, he owns a luxury villa and multi-story house in Sarajevo, apartments at the nearby Bjelašnica olympic mountain and in BiH coastal town of Neum as well as significant land with several buildings on the Nišići plateau, northeast from Sarajevo, according to CIN.
“CIN found that some of the properties were acquired using fictitious contracts and forged documents, and some business partners claim he had deceived and blackmailed them and are now seeking justice in courts,” read the report.
Those who refused to participate in such trades allegedly faced Čegar’s threats with police investigations.
While working on the story and trying to get some comments directly from him, instead of answers, Radić received a barrage of curses, threats, and insults over the phone.
The BH Journalists Association strongly condemned the latest attack, calling on the authorities to sanction the high-ranking police official.
The U.S. Embassy in BiH also condemned Čegar’s threats to journalists.
“We urge the authorities to protect all journalists from harassment and attacks and ensure they are able to report the truth. Freedom of the press is essential to free, democratic societies,” the Embassy tweeted.