Media Freedom Organizations Urge Serbia to Stop Targeting Journalists

Published: 22 March 2024

Dinko GruhonjicJournalist and lecturer Dinko Gruhonjić is now the victim of a public lynching campaign since the publication of a video montage in which he allegedly claims to be happy to share his name with the WW2 criminal Dinko Šakić. (Photo: Medija centar Beograd, Wikimedia, License)

By Lieth Carrillo

International media freedom watchdogs urged Serbian authorities to find and punish the perpetrators of attacks against journalists in the northern Serbian province of Vojvodina where threats, physical assaults, online harassment, and verbal abuse have reached an unprecedented level.

In just 10 days, at least seven journalists have been attacked in various ways in the city of Novi Sad, the capital of the province, be it by protesters, nationalists, or political opponents.

Journalists from Tanjug, Kurir Television, and radio were verbally assaulted on March 8 while covering a demonstration in support of a mother whose children were taken from her by social workers.

According to Mapping Media Freedom, the protesters believed that children in Serbia are being separated from their parents as part of an international conspiracy to abduct them for sale abroad. This has caused protesters to accuse journalists who offered the social workers’ side of the story of lying and to attack them.

In the same week, two reporters from the Vojvodina Association of Independent Journalists (NDNV) received death threats and were even denounced for allegedly inciting racial, religious, and national hatred during their participation at a forum in the Croatian coastal city of Dubrovnik.

Ana Lalić Hegediš received the threats after claiming that Serbian authorities do not consider Vojvodina's citizens as “Serb enough” because of their multi-confessionalism and multi-ethnicity.

Dinko Gruhonjić has been threatened after a smear campaign in which a manipulated video that showed him expressing satisfaction over the fact that he shares the first name with a WWII concentration camp commander Dinko Šakić.

“The number of threats and insults against journalists is on the rise in Serbia. Knowing that Serbia is a country where the three murders of journalists in the last three decades have not been punished, we are very worried about every threat against journalists that goes unresolved,” said Tamara Filipović, project manager of the Association of Independent Journalists of Serbia (NUNS).

The joint statement signed by the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the European Center for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF), the OBC Transeuropa (OBCT), the International Press Institute (IPI), the Free Press Unlimited (FPU), and the Safejournalists network called on Serbian officials to stop targeting journalists.

“Their hostile rhetoric legitimizes and normalizes verbal and physical violence against journalists and media workers,” the statement said. “We urge authorities to guarantee a safe environment for journalists, allowing them to work without fearing for their lives, and to put an end to the unacceptable culture of impunity by systematically investigating attacks and complaints.”