Croatia: Journalists targeted after reporting on sentences imposed on “war criminals”


Journalists who referred to Slobodan Praljak, seen here in 2013, and his co-defendants as war criminals after their conviction have been targeted by parties who think the men are heroes. (Photo: UN International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia)

Journalists who referred to Slobodan Praljak, seen here in 2013, and his co-defendants as war criminals after their conviction have been targeted by parties who think the men are heroes. (Photo: UN International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia)

Several journalists and news outlets from Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina faced death threats and intimidation following their coverage a war crimes trial at the UN International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague, Netherlands.

In the ruling ending the case, six Bosnian Croat leaders were sentenced on several charges for an ethnic cleansing campaign against Muslim Bosniaks during the 1992-95 Bosnian war.

One of the six defendants was Slobodan Praljak, who committed suicide during the delivery of the court’s verdict by potassium cyanide. Just a seconds before taking the poison, the defendant addressed the court: “Slobodan Praljak is not a war criminal! I reject your judgment with contempt!”

What was supposed to be an easy task, writing a news report from a trial, turned out to be a quite delicate situation. The problem stems from how reporters should refer to the convicted men. War criminals or heroes?

For the conservative and right-wing politicians, currently in power in Croatia, the case is clear. The defendants are heroes, regardless of what court has said. Therefore, Praljak and the other five defendants, in line with the nationalistic narrative, should be praised as heroes, while his suicide is seen as a highly moral act. In line with this, the majority of politicians in the Croatian Parliament held a minute’s silence honouring Praljak. Even the Croatian prime minister, Andrej Plenković, said that the UN court’s verdict was a “deep moral injustice” becoming, as the Guardian reported, the first head of an EU government in support of a convicted war criminal. Later, following the national and international critics, Plenković back-pedalled in his narrative, even though keeping “but” in his argumentation.

In this kind of fraught environment the professional media were supposed to objectively inform the public. For those media workers that used “war criminal” to describe Praljak and other five defendants,  what followed was a nightmare. A series of death threats, intimidations, insults and bullying, mainly via social media, were issued against all those outlets and journalists who described Praljak as a sentenced war criminal, or were critically analysing Croatia’s involvement in the 1992-95 Bosnian war.

In just a few days, Croatian news website and its journalists received tens of serious death threats, including bomb and napalm threats. As reported by the site, the threats included: “I will fuck your treacherous mother. You are a dead man”; and “there will be time when your 18-year-old daughter will be walking alone around the town.”

Nataša Božić Šarić, editor and host of a political talk show Točka na tjedan (Point for the Week), which is aired on regional private broadcaster N1, received death threats and insults on Facebook after the show. Her question to the guests “should the sentenced be stripped of awarded medals?” was considered as provocation by conservative and right-wing viewers.

The most recent report from the Croatian Journalists’ Association (HND) says that the latest in the long line of intimidated journalists is daily Jutarnji list op-ed Jurica Pavičić. He was threaten for his critical column on the Croatian Parliament’s decision to hold a minute’s silence for the defendants.

The Praljak case resulted in similar rhetoric and threats in neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina, where the war crimes were committed. Sanel Kajan, a journalist and correspondent for the regional private broadcaster Al Jazeera Balkans (AJB), received threats from his fellow citizens, Bosnian Croats, for using his voice for the announcement of a special show on the ICTY trial on AJB and for sharing colleagues’ pieces on Facebook.

“I received a ton of threatening messages via Facebook,” Kajan told Index on Censorship. “At the beginning I was just deleting them, but once I realized the gravity, as threats were multiplying every minute, I decided to report the case to the police,” he said. Among the numerous Facebook messages there were death threats like “You won’t be alive for a long time. I promise you this”; and a religious-based ones like “Shame on you, you unbaptised Satan”.

This is not the first time these kind of threats have been “provoked” by objective reporting while nationalistic reports have been praised as true, patriotic journalism. Similar incidents have happened in all post-conflict Balkan states. In recent years, Mapping Media Freedom has documented similar cases in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Kosovo and the Republic of Macedonia. In all those cases media workers were threatened, intimidated and bullied for questioning nationalistic dogmas.

Zdenko Duka, a well-respected Croatian journalist and former president of HND pointed out that there is plurality in the society which is backed by professional and critical media. “But unfortunately the ruling elite is pushing towards nationalistic rhetoric as a compensation for their incompetence and cowardness,” Duka said. Elaborating on the power dynamics he said that “the Catholic Church and the war veterans” are influencing Croatian politics through the ruling conservative Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ). “Veterans are a privileged group with 2-3 times higher average pensions than the rest of the citizens,” Duka explained.

Croatia’s public and politicians have applied doubles standards to the ICTY verdicts: The court is praised when others are found guilty, but denounced as corrupt when it convicts “heroes”. For years this line of argument has been validated in the public discourse. Srdjan Puhalo, a political analyst from Bosnia and Herzegovina, calls this phenomenon the “moral incompleteness” of the Balkan societies.

“Nowadays is hard to critically analyse the 90s wars. If you write critically you will be called a traitor, and everybody knows what one should do with traitors. Bottom line is that it is you against the system which is backing up the 90s ‘heroes’,” Puhalo said. The only exit out of this vicious circle, according to him, is time. “At the end, only the verdicts will stay throughout history and everything else will be forgotten,” Puhalo concludes.

It is even more important that these kinds of threats against press freedom are not minimised and left unpunished.

“If there will be no concrete action/investigation/outcome out of this then the message will be loud and clear: You are free to intimidate them, and journalists should shut up,” Kajan said.

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Croatia: Over 70 journalists axed from public broadcaster since January

Sasa Lekovic at a Mediacentar Sarajevo event in 2013 (Photo: Mediacentar Sarajevo)

Sasa Lekovic, seen here at a Mediacentar Sarajevo event in 2013, spoke to Mapping Media Freedom about the changes at Croatia’s public broadcaster, HRT. (Photo: Mediacentar Sarajevo)

The cancellation of three radio programmes on 4 July by Croatia’s public broadcaster marks the latest in a line of sweeping changes the network has undergone since January 2016.

Two of the three shows — Audio.doc and Hidden Side of the Day — were produced by award-winning radio journalist Ljubica Letinic, while the third — Morning at Third — was considered to the Croatian Radio-Television’s (HRT) most popular. N1, a regional broadcaster, reported that the programmes will be replaced with new shows that are more appropriate to the ruling elite’s ideology, including one on Christian spirituality.

The changes at HRT have gathered momentum since Croatia’s new conservative government came to power in January 2016. More than 70 media workers at HRT have been demoted or fired and more than 10 TV and radio shows have been terminated, according to the Croatian Journalists’ Association, which has strongly condemned what it calls the deliberate destruction of HRT.

In a written response to the cancellations, CJA president Sasa Lekovic said Croatia’s minister of culture Zlatko Hasanbegovic is the force behind the “culturecide” at HRT and that the changes are motivated by the ideological differences between the conservative government and the liberal subdivisions at the public broadcaster.

In an interview with Mapping Media Freedom, Lekovic said that the purges at HRT were pre-announced, even before the conservative coalition government came to power.

“The latest developments were already announced,” Lekovic said, referring to two interviews. The first with the former Prime Minister Tomislav Karamarko from 2015, and the second with Hasanbegovic from 2013.

“Karamarko in his last year’s interview for weekly Globus announced how citizens, and especially journalist, will need to behave once he comes in power,” Lekovic said. After this it was reasonable to expect that Hasanbegovic will be in charge for media, especially after his statement that the public broadcaster’s channels are being used to enact a “post-modern, neo-Yugoslav deconstruction of Croatian national and cultural identity”.

The Croatian Writers’ Society (HDP) have also condemned the recent trend of deep and substantial changes in the public broadcaster accusing the actual government of “silencing critical voices”. Lekovic told Index on Censorship that the public broadcaster was totally devastated during Karamarko and Hasanbegovic’s brief tenure.

The coalition government between conservative center-right Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) and the center party Most, a political platform comprised of independent local majors, was formed after more than two months of hard and erratic negotiations. By its nature it was an unstable and shaky coalition. Hasanbegovic as a high-ranking member of HDZ shortly after seated in the chair of the minister of culture. Immediately he became publicly known for series of scandals related to ideological and historical revisionism. One of the biggest scandals was revealed by the Croatian daily Novosti. They published an article that was written by Hasanbegovic during his student days in which he expressed sympathy for the fascist Ustasha regime in World War II Croatia.   

After months of turbulence and scandals Karamarko resigned from the leader position at HDZ in June amid a corruption scandal that involved his wife. But briefly before his resignation, as a part of the intergovernmental power games, Karamarko and his party HDZ, which was the main party in the coalition, opted for a no-confidence vote for the government. The end result was Karamarko’s resignation from his position as the leader of the main ruling party, the failure of the coalition between HDZ and Most and snap elections were called for 11 September.

Despite the fact that the government lost the confidence vote, the changes at HRT continue as the broadcaster is under HDZ influence. In March, while still in power, the centre-right government installed Sinisa Kovacic, then-head of the parallel journalist association HNIP, as an acting head of HRT. Since then he has continued to implement Hasanbegovic’s vison for HRT and to reshape the broadcaster’s programmes. Since Kovacic was supposed to be in that position for maximum six months, a period that is long overdue, negotiations on his successor are underway.  

Letinic said she is skeptical about the future of Croatian journalism. “It doesn’t look good, both for journalism and journalists. The paradox is that even such journalism serves this country. It was the weekly Nacional that provoked the fall of HDZ-MOST government.”

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Croatia: Controversial TV show prompts dispute in national media

croatia map

Walking around the Zagreb offices of the Electronic Media Council (AEM), Croatia’s broadcast regulator, must have had a distinctive feel to it on 26 January. According to Croatian media, outside the building stood about 5,000 demonstrators singing Croatian patriotic songs, calling for AEM chair Marjana Rakic’s resignation and carrying an effigy of her dressed as a Yugoslav Partizan and holding a machine gun. Some shouted “Za dom spremni” (“For the homeland, ready”), a Nazi-style salute used by the Ustaše regime that ruled Croatia during World War II.

The reason? An episode of Markov Trg, a TV show created by Marko Juric and broadcast by Z1 TV, which AEM punished by suspending its license for three days over claims it was “inciting hatred on the basis of race and ethnicity”.

On 19 January, Markov Trg reported that Zagreb’s Serb Orthodox clergy routinely sang “Chetnik” songs.

As Balkan Transitional Justice notes, the word “Chetnik” has a few different connotations in the former Yugoslavia. “Originally applied to Serbian royalist fighters in World War II, it later became a more pejorative expression, even more so during the wars of the 1990s when many Serbian paramilitary groups styled themselves ‘Chetniks’.”

At the end of the show, anchor and columnist Marko Juric said: “The message to residents of Zagreb, to all those taking a stroll in Cvjetni Trg [one of the squares in downtown Zagreb], is to be careful, given that this is where the [Serb Orthodox] church led by a Chetnik vicar is located.

“Beware when you are walking down Cvjetnik Trg, especially mothers with children, because one of those Chetnik vicars could run out of the church and commit a slaughter in Zagreb’s most beautiful square.

“Maybe ‘Beware of Chetnik’ signs should be put up there.”

The statement prompted a disagreement in Croatian media.

The Croatian Journalists Association (HND) was quick condemn the show, as on 21 January its president Sasha Lekovic said in a statement that the show hadn’t done any journalistic work, and was instead “irresponsible and alarming public appearance”.

“We believe that all media should keep in mind at all times that there is a fine line between verbal and actual violence,” his statement reads.

One day later, on 22 January, the AEM found that Juric had incited hatred, and suspended Z1 TV’s license for three days between 26 and 29 January.

The Association of Croatian Journalists and Publicists (HNiP), a new Croatian press association, strongly condemned the decision to suspend the broadcaster, calling it an “unprecedented, serious attack on the freedom of the media and freedom of expression”. Marko Juric is a member of the HNiP.

After that the 26 January protest, which was organised by civil war veterans, who also strongly condemned the HND’s statement, claiming they were “attacking freedom of expression, instead of protecting it”.

According to HDN reports, veterans have also sent the association a letter which “endangers the safety of journalists”, which pairs with “verbal harassment” via phone and “hate speech”. HND also criticised Croatia’s right-wing government for failing to condemn the protest and the country’s vice president for actually joining the demonstration against the regulator.

The protest is one of the episodes of an ongoing disagreement in Croatian media, where HND and HNiP have been accusing each other of suffocating media freedom and lowering journalistic standards.

HNiP was launched on 2 July 2015 by journalists dissatisfied with HND standards and “lack of democracy and world-view balance in the media”, and counts 45 members.

HND is the biggest and oldest journalists’ association in the country. It was founded in 1910, counts about 3,000 members and has joined the International Federation of Journalists in 1992. HND’s Lekovic is critical of the HNiP’s integrity. Speaking to Index on Censorship in August 2015, Lekovic said that lack of professional integrity was one of the primary threats in the Croatian media landscape.

“We have a number of media outlets, especially web portals, not following any professional standard; they are actually using media freedom against the media,” he said.

After the Z1 TV case and the protest that followed it, the dispute continued with exchanges of accusations, the HNiP said Lekovic is trying to discredit them, while HND said HNiP is part of Prime Minister Karamanko’s plan to take over the media.

At the beginning of March 2016, Croatia’s government appointed Sinisa Kovacic, president of the HNiP, as a new acting director general at the public broadcaster Croatian Radiotelevision (HRT). Since then, around 15 editors and programme directors have been replaced at HRT.

There are also now suggestions that the government is trying to replace Rakic as AEM’s president.

On 4 March, Lekovic said in a statement: “They [members of the HNiP] want to neutralise the HND and introduce unprofessional and unethical conduct in journalism, and servility to the incumbent government as a desirable model of journalist work.”

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Balkans: “Media has a significant role in the theatre of the absurd”


“Media has a significant role in the theatre of the absurd,” a participant in a conference on the security and protection of journalists in western Balkan countries claimed.

Media workers and representatives from journalists’ associations in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro joined representatives of international organisations in Sarajevo in June 2015 to debate key issues facing the media in the region: attacks on journalists, impunity, the effectiveness of the legal system and institutional mechanisms to create a safe environment to  work in.

Conference participants said media freedom is deteriorating and assigned responsibility for the decline on governments in the region, local media ownership and, especially, international institutions and organisations.

Goran Miletic, programme director for the western Balkans at Civil Rights Defenders, an NGO working in the area, said that in 2004 some of the international organisations decided to withdraw funding from local media to focus on other projects. Miletic said that reduced level of funding for media was a lost opportunity to prevent human rights abuses and further democratise the region.

International funding is vital to professionalising the media, which cannot rely on local government support. “If we analyse research on what people think of human rights defenders or journalists, they are often characterised as spies, foreign mercenaries, or enemies of the state,” said Miletic.

A lack of media plurality and news illiteracy were identified as concerns that have had a detrimental effect on the advancement of press freedom and professionalism in the region.

“Media freedom is once again one of the key challenges for the region,” said Andy McGuffie, head of the communication office of the Delegation of the European Union to Bosnia and Herzegovina and a European Union Special Representative.

Presidents of journalists’ associations focused on attacks on journalists and the effectiveness of the legal system and institutional components. Addressing the current situation in Croatia, Zdenko Duka, then president of the Croatian Journalists’ Association, underlined that “fortunately, [in recent months], there have not been too many physical assaults. Comparing assaults and threats against journalists  to other countries in the region, the situation in Croatia is better.”

Croatia has a checkered history on media freedom. During the 1990s journalists were widely targeted and were under surveillance by the secret service. In the 2000s, the journalist Ivo Pukanic, was assassinated in a bomb attack at his Zagreb office. Though a court convicted six men for the murder, the person who ordered the crime has not been brought to justice.

Duka emphasised two 2014 physical assaults: an incident in Rijeka in which football club officials attacked a journalist and a photographer and the brutal attack on journalist Domagoj Margetic who was assaulted by several people near his home in Zagreb. Margetic sustained head injuries as a result of the attack, for which he received medical treatment.

Sanja Mikleusevic-Pavic, a journalist from Zagreb, agreed with Duka. “Croatia is in a much better situation than other countries,” she said. Key reasons for this include the Trade Union and the Journalists’ Association, which are very well organised and powerful, but most of all, the key role played by the public broadcaster HRT. “HRT is a strong, independent and professional public broadcaster,” said Mikleusevic-Pavic.

From her point of view, the main threat to independence and professionalism are pressures from tycoons and politicians, which, in her experience, are significant. The case of Croatian TV broadcaster RTL, which was found guilty of slander for airing a live show during which Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic accused Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandic of corruption,  sets a negative precedent, particularly because another TV station that aired the same statement was not charged.  As  punishment, RTL has been ordered to pay 6,500 euros to the mayor.

Croatia’s new criminal code presents another obstacle to media freedom. It includes Article 148, introduced in 2013, which establishes an offence of “humiliation”, “shaming” or “vilification”. Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso said the article would allow judges to sentence a journalist if the information published is not considered being in the public interest and “for the court, it is of little importance that the information is correct – it is enough for the principal to state that he felt humbled by the publication of the news.”

In April 2014, Jutarnji List journalist Slavica Lukic became the first Croatian journalist to be prosecuted under the article. She was found guilty of vilification. Lukic reported that a company had economic problems despite the substantial public funding it received. The company stated it felt “humiliated” and the judge fined her 4,000 Euros.

Dunja Mijatovic, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, said in a letter to the Croatian officials that the current legal definitions of “insult” and “shaming” are “vague, open to individual interpretation and, thus, prone to arbitrary application.”

Duka said that there are more than 40 criminal insult cases pending against journalists in the country and this is clear evidence that “truth can be punishable.” Furthermore, he believes judges are not well prepared for defamation, slander and libel cases. Defamation in Croatia has not been decriminalised as it has been in Montenegro, Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

“The situation in Serbia is alarming. As long as there is a brutal assault on journalists, we cannot talk about freedom of speech and media freedom,” Vukasin Obradovic, president of the Independent Journalists’ Association of Serbia (NUNS), said  in a speech at the conference.

From 2008 to 2014, Serbia has seen a total of 365 physical and verbal assaults, intimidation and attacks on the property of media professionals. Since May 2014 alone, Index’s European Union-funded Mapping Media Freedom project has received over 48 reports of violations against Serbian media, including attacks to property, intimidation and physical violence.

In his talk, Obradovic described several incidents to illustrate the media situation in Serbia. On 14 April 2007 a bomb exploded outside the apartment of journalist Dejan Anastasijevic. No one was injured. In a statement to international media, Anastasijevic said: “It was just before 3 am on Saturday when a hand grenade went off outside the bedroom window of my Belgrade apartment, filling the room with smoke and shards of glass, leaving shrapnel holes on the ceiling and walls — some only inches above the bed. Despite the damage, we were lucky: When the police arrived, they found a second unexploded grenade on the sidewalk nearby.”

Anastasijevic was targeted because of his investigative reporting on crimes in the former Yugoslavia and criminal syndicates in Serbia, local media reported. The most recent attack followed Anastasijevic’s criticism of a lenient verdict for members of Serb paramilitaries called “Scorpions,” journalists associations said. The case has still not been resolved.

Obradovic emphasised that attacks on journalists in Belgrade often get more attention than violations that take place outside the capital.

Vladimir Mitric, a journalist from the town of Loznica, has been under police protection since October 2005 after being subjected to a brutal assault. He was attacked as he entered his apartment and struck with a blunt instrument from behind several times. He ended up with  a broken hand and was very badly bruised all over his body. He is disabled as a result of that attack.

“I live under police protection that I was granted by court, not police, at my request, which is important,” said Mitric in an interview with SEEMO. A former police officer was identified as the attacker and was sentenced to six months in jail by the Loznica Basic Court. The Belgrade Court of Appeal later doubled the sentence.

However, a few months after the trial, Tomislav Nikolic, the president of Serbia, granted amnesty to the attacker and the remainder of his sentence was vacated. Threats against Mitric continue despite 24-hour police protection. Human Rights Watch reported: “The person making the threats was accompanied by a police officer who had been responsible for Mitric’s protection. The person making the threats was charged with minor offences in September, but at this writing the police officer had not been disciplined.”

Sladjana Novosel, a journalist from Novi Pazar, was targeted three times between September 2010 and  March 2013. Novosel was subjected to verbal attacks, shaming and bullying. Police have, so far, failed to pursue investigations of these threats.

In another incident, Davor Pasalic, the editor-in-chief of FoNet, was attacked twice early in the morning of 3 July 2014 as he made his way home from his office. The two attacks left him with cuts and bruises, and four of his teeth were broken or knocked out. After seven months of investigation and zero progress, Pasalic sarcastically said that his case is “no big deal.” But he added that the assault has had no impact on his work.

Obradovic finished his talk by saying that “the impunity and recklessness of institutions obviously encourage attacks.”

Branislava Opranovic, member of the executive board of the Independent Journalists’ Association of Vojvodina (NDNV), focused on economic issues and ownership transparency in the media. She described  the lack of ownership transparency in the media, sharing her personal experience. “I have been working for the daily Dnevnik for years and years, but still don’t know who the owner of the newspaper is.” She also mentioned other cases, including one where a man in his twenties wanted to buy nine media outlets in Vojvodina, or the episode where her coworkers were waiting patiently in a line to collect bonuses of 5 Euros despite having not received their salaries.

Though Bosnia and Herzegovina was the first country from the region to decriminalise defamation, in 1999, the situation is no better than in Serbia. Borka Rudic, Secretary General of the BH Journalists Association, said: “The raid of the offices in late December 2014 just proves this conclusion.”

In that incident, police entered and searched’s Sarajevo offices for a recording of a phone call in which the Republika Srpska Prime Minister Željka Cvijanović talks about “buying off” politicians. Local media reported that police were copying material from the newsroom’s computers. The police also seized computers, documents, notes and other items from the offices, according to media reports.

Despite positive developments in the law over the past 15 years, the situation has shown little improvement, as institutions are failing to properly implement new legislation, meaning protection on journalists is weak. Between 2006 and 2014, there have been approximately 400 registered cases of media rights violations, including 40 physical assaults and 17 death threats.

Bosnian journalists use a name and shame strategy, in which the identity of every person who threatens or attacks a journalist is publicised. Rudic said that the most serious incident was the attack of Professor Slavo Kukic, a prominent writer and columnist, who was severely beaten with a baseball bat in his office at the University of Mostar, on 23 June 2014.

Marko, a journalist present at the event, shared his and a colleague’s personal experiences. While working for a public broadcaster they were both victims of constant harassment by one of their deputy editors, receiving no support from senior editors or directors. This resulted in them both being admitted to a psychiatric hospital for mental health issues.

Montenegrin TV host and journalist, Darko Ivanovic, told how one of his country’s prominent politicians stated: “it is customary law to hit journalists,” when asked why he slapped a journalist.

Over the last few years Ivanovic has had his car vandalised on a number of occasions, though only one incident resulted in the arrest of a suspect, who admitted the vandalism. However, when interviewed by Ivanovic, the suspect admitted that the police gave him 5 Euros so he confessed to the crime. “There is always someone found guilty, but usually they’re not the real perpetrators. And this puts into the question the effectiveness of the system,” Ivanovic said.

Marijana Camovic, President of the Trade Union of Media of Montenegro, said at the conference “the mindset of local politicians is that for them it is impossible that a journalist could be impartial and professional.”

Tabloids in Montenegro are used for smear campaigns. Civil rights activist Vanja Calovic became the victim of just such a campaign by Informer, a daily newspaper. The tabloid’s mid-June attack against the head of the MANS NGO began with the release of a video recording that, according to the paper, proved that Calovic was “an animal abuser” and alleged that she had sexual relations with her dogs.

The NGO Human Rights Action (HRA) highlighted the perilous state of journalism in its report, “Prosecution of Attacks on Journalists in Montenegro”. The HRA outlined 30 cases of threats, violence and assassinations of journalists as well as attacks on media property between May 2004 and January 2014. “Most of these attacks have not been clarified to date. In most cases certain patterns can be observed, for example: victims are the media or individuals willing to criticise the government or organised crime,”  the report said.

One-third of all incidents happened in the the last year, which to the HRA shows the atmosphere of impunity is escalating. “Such an atmosphere of impunity threatens journalists in particular, who are often victims of unresolved attacks. If the state treats these attacks passively, it becomes responsible for the suppression of freedom of speech, the rule of law and democracy.”

The assassination of Editor-in-chief of the Daily Dan, Dusko Jovanovic, who was killed in a drive-by shooting on the evening of 27 May 2004, has not been solved nine years later. Damir Mandic, the only defendant in the recent trial, claims he is innocent and accused the police of planting evidence, Balkan Insight reported. Mandic said he was in prison for 10 years although he was innocent, and his human rights had been violated. He remains the only perpetrator to be convicted.

Seven years after the brutal attack that nearly took the life of journalist Tufik Softic, Montenegrin police detained two men suspected of involvement in his attempted murder. For media unions and observers, the detentions were long overdue, but emblematic of the atmosphere of impunity in Montenegro. In November 2007, Softic was brutally beaten in front of his home by two hooded assailants wielding baseball bats. Then in August 2013, an explosive device was thrown into the yard of his family home. The journalist has been provided with constant police security since February 2014.

Besides this atmosphere of impunity that threatens journalists, Camovic spoke of other phenomena. Approximately 80 per cent of all active media workers in Montenegro are not members of any journalist’s association. When asked why they’re not active in the organisations, they had no answer.

In summing up the situation, Ivanovic said that states and political parties deliberately tolerate grey or criminal activities of media owners so they can control them easily.


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