International day to end impunity for crimes against journalists: The impunity continues

Protest,
Foto : KoSSev

A total of 30 journalists have been killed worldwide this year and 100 cases of violence against journalists have been reported in Serbia so far. Today is the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) says being a journalist today means that „picking up your children from school can be more dangerous than reporting in a war zone.“

From 1998 to 2005, 14 journalists and media workers were killed and reported missing in Kosovo. Their kidnappers and murderers still have not been found.

According to the NUNS database, a total of 102 attacks on journalists occurred in Serbia in 2018 – seven physical assaults, 72 cases of pressure and 23 verbal threats. In 2019, NUNS has so far recorded 100 attacks – 9 physical, an attack on property, 68 cases of pressure and 22 verbal threats.

According to the IFJ data, 1,064 journalists have been killed in the last 10 years, while only 1 in 10 killings of media workers has been punished. The vast majority of these murders do not take place in war zones but in the street or at home in broad daylight – this federation emphasized.

When you are a journalist, picking up your children from school can be more dangerous than reporting in a war zone

According to UNESCO, as many as 93% of the victims were local journalists.


According to the International Press Institute, as many as 40 journalists have been killed over the past year, 25 of them were killed in targeted attacks for their work, frequently in response to reports exposing corruption or the activities of crime syndicates.

Ubijeni novinari
Novinari ubijeni u vezi sa svojim radom, novembar 2018 – novembar 2019./FOTO: IPI Death Watch

The International Federation of Journalists launched a global campaign to end impunity for crimes against journalists in order to remind the competent authorities and the public of crimes that have not been solved or prosecuted for years.

The IFJ initiative also received the support of the Journalists’ Association of Serbia (UNS), which estimated that in Serbia the majority of those responsible for attacks on journalists and media workers were not punished and that no investigation was initiated against them.

UNS recalled that as many as 39 journalists and media workers who worked for Serbian newsrooms, including Slavko Curuvija, Milan Pantic, Dada Vujasinovic and victims of the RTS bombing, have been killed, abducted, missing or lost their lives under unexplained circumstances, from 1991 to the end of 2001.

Eleven years have passed since the assassination attempt of the „Vreme“ journalist, Dejan Anastasijevic and the perpetrators have still not been found and punished. Ivan Ninic’s attackers nor those responsible for the beating of FoNet editor Davor Pasalic in 2014 have not been found – this association pointed out.

The experience of KoSSev editorial office

KoSSev Portal’s newsroom was shot at on the 11th of June, 2015, only a year after its establishment. According to the official police investigation, the portal premises were fired at with seven bullets. Despite this, we found more shells later, which numbered 11 altogether. According to unofficial information, these shells were fired from a Heckler submachine gun. To date, we have no information either about the course of the investigation or about the status of the case.

That same year, on November 24th, a private car used by our editorial staff was set on fire. There is also no information about this investigation, although initially there were several attempts at portraying the case as “spontaneous combustion”. During the 2017 pre-election campaign in Kosovo, our editor’s family received threats along with a verbal explanation that this happened because of “what KoSSev writes”. KoSSev female journalists were physically attacked two times, in the presence of members of the Kosovo Police who failed to react during both incidents.

Local authorities, both in the Kosovo and Serbian systems, have unilaterally seized any communication with the KoSSev portal, including departments dealing with sports, educational and cultural activities, as well as the schools and institutions which receive funds from the budget.

Communication was unilaterally cut off by two heads of the Kosovo Police in the North region – Zeljko Bojic and Nenad Djuric, who, along with another official, are the only ones who have the authority (according to their own words) to communicate with the public in the North region.

All Serbian ministers in the Kosovo government, with the exception of one minister, as well as the former Serbian deputies in the Kosovo parliament, are also on the list of those who cut off communication with KoSSev, along with all mayors and presidents of provisional bodies. All these officials are members and supporters of Srpska Lista.

In addition, a court proceeding against the editor of the KoSSev portal is underway, following a lawsuit filed by the President of the Provisional Authority in Kosovska Mitrovica, Aleksandar Spiric, for the infliction of emotional distress by one of the article headlines.

In April, the President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic spoke from Beijing on two occasions about the work of „media espionage networks, especially in the north of Kosovo“.

“They are paying millions of dollars and these (media) are becoming your main information providers in Central Serbia and in many other places. They are directly paid from the outside – with the sole purpose of destroying the unity of Serb people in the north of Kosovo and in other parts of Kosovo as well. Since this is not working, then they continue putting pressure on Serbia.” ; “Just look at how many media the foreigners have created in the north of Kosovo, how many media the foreigners created just to destroy the reputation of Srpska Lista. Look at all the campaigns that are being conducted to criminalize the north of Kosovo, to criminalize Serbs in Kosovo,“ the President stated at the time.

Following a harsh reaction from individuals, organizations and journalistic associations, upon his return from Beijing, the President of Serbia apologized as follows:

“Someone could believe that this allows him to attack one of the people working in such media outlets, and that I am guilty of something even though I have not mentioned any media. I did not mention any media outlets. I did not mention any by name, but I said that the foreigners established the media which are supposed to work on the criminalization of Serbs and that they gave millions. They said – it’s Vucic’s attack on independent media. No, no, it’s an attack on foreign services, but I accept that I am guilty of this as well, and I will tell you why: Because someone can understand that he is therefore allowed to attack some of the people working in such media.”

Since then Facebook pages titled „Belgrade is our city“ (deleted in the meantime), „Serbia is our country“, and „Serbia at heart“, with links to the domain of the Serbian version of the site Breitbart (this site caught the public’s eye with fake news during the presidential campaign in America and its president Steve Bannon became the White House’s chief strategist after Donald Trump’s inauguration), featured a sponsored post displaying the logo of the KoSSev portal along with the inscription „Pro-Albanian portal in Serbian“, and previously the inscription „Shiptar portal“ (removed after reporting the post to the MIA Department of Cybercrime).

The KoSSev portal often comes under severe hacker attacks, including strong DDOS attacks on two occasions.

The United Nations General Assembly proclaimed November 2nd as the International Day to End the Impunity for Crimes against Journalists in 2013. It was first marked on November 2nd, 2014, on the first anniversary of the killing of French journalists, Claude Verlon and Ghislaine Dupont, who were killed while reporting in Mali.

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