picture alliance / ASSOCIATED PRESS | Pedja Milosavljevic

Safety and justice: demanding accountability for attacks against journalists in Serbia

Commemorating 25 years since the brutal murder of Serbian journalist Slavko Ćuruvija, media freedom organisations unite to condemn continued impunity in this case and demand accountability for all acts of violence against journalists in Serbia. The recent acquittal of security officers accused of Ćuruvija’s murder, as well as the escalating attacks against journalists in Novi Sad, underscore the urgent need for authorities to act and protect press freedom in Serbia.

 

Marking a quarter of a century since the murder of Serbian journalist Slavko Ćuruvija, the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF), the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) partners, and the SafeJournalists Network stand united in condemning the impunity surrounding his assassination. Ćuruvija, an esteemed editor and publisher, was fatally shot in front of his home in Belgrade on 11 April 1999. No one is convicted for executing him or ordering the killing.

 

Justice in Ćuruvija’s case was delayed from the start, with the first trial beginning only 16 years after his death, in June 2015. The accused were sentenced to a combined 100 years in prison in 2019, a retrial in 2021 confirming the guilty verdicts. However, the recent decision by the Belgrade Court of Appeals to acquit former Serbian state security officers implicated in Ćuruvija’s murder due to alleged lack of evidence is deeply troubling. 

 

This shocking verdict, going against previous convictions, has raised our concerns about Serbia’s commitment to human rights and the rule of law. Taking into account also the unresolved deaths of Milan Pantić in 2001 and Dada Vujasinović in 1994, the general impunity environment demands attention. 

 

Urgent need for action: escalating attacks against journalists in Novi Sad

Moreover, the impunity for yesterday’s violence only intensifies our worries about today’s environment. An unprecedented escalation of threats and attacks against journalists in Novi Sad, in northern Serbia, underscores the need for concrete action to protect journalists’ safety in the country. 

 

We are deeply alarmed to see the absenteeism of institutions in reacting effectively to these assaults, which exacerbates the risks facing journalists. The revival of insults by politicians in public debates also stresses the need for officials to refrain from targeting journalists. 

 

For the past month, leaders of the Association of Independent Journalists of Vojvodina (NDNV), Ana Lalić Hegediš and Dinko Gruhonjić, have been the target of serious death threats. In the face of the authorities’ lack of response despite our persistent calls for a thorough investigation and conviction of the perpetrators, the MFRR has provided private protection to both journalists for the first time. 

 

On this sombre anniversary, we reiterate that such a spate of assaults, harassment, and intimidation is unacceptable and must be met with swift and decisive safeguard measures from the Serbian authorities. 

 

Serbia must prioritize journalists’ safety and end impunity

As we commemorate Slavko Ćuruvija’s memory, we reassert our commitment to defending media freedom and call upon the Serbian state to prioritize the safety of journalists. We stand in solidarity with all journalists in Serbia who courageously continue their vital work in the face of adversity. Perpetrators of violence and intimidation must be held accountable to ensure a free and safe environment for the media workers in Serbia.

 

We call upon the international community to join us in unequivocally condemning the impunity in the cases of Slavko Ćuruvija, Milan Pantić and Dada Vujasinović. We urge them to solve these cases and support efforts to ensure justice for all journalists who have been targeted for their commitment to truth and transparency.

 

Signed: 

Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR)

International Press Institute (IPI)

ARTICLE 19 Europe

European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)

European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)

Free Press Unlimited (FPU)

OBC Transeuropa

 

SafeJournalists Network

Association of Journalists of Kosovo

Association of Journalists of Macedonia

BH Journalists Association

Croatian Journalists’ Association

Independent Journalists Association of Serbia

Trade Union of Media of Montenegro

This statement was coordinated as part of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), a Europe-wide mechanism which tracks, monitors and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States and candidate countries.

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