Many of you know that I was involved in highlighting the work of B92 Radio in the US, during the NATO bombing of Serbia.  B92 is one of the most important journalistic efforts in the world, and a stunning example of the power of the Internet to be a force for truth and peace.  I hope you will join me in supporting B92 and bringing this issue to light in your circles.

Michael Weisman

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 Tadiæ’s statement yesterday that the state would not tolerate violence by hooligans and criminals. Tadiæ 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 Daèiæ 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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