Serbia: Fears mount for media safety during protests in Serbia after two nights' violence

The International and European Federations of Journalists (EFJ/IFJ) are extremely concerned by violence against journalists during the protests currently taking place in several cities in Serbia since 7 July. The two federations say that there have been at least 14 reported attacks against journalists and media workers who were covering the events. The Federations condemn these brutal attacks by police forces as well as by demonstrators and join their affiliates in Serbia, UNS, NUNS and SINOS, in calling on the police to respect the work of the journalists.

Protest in Belgrade. Credits: ANDREJ ISAKOVIC / AFP

Thousands of protesters took to the streets for the second night in a row to protest the way Covid-19 pandemic is being dealt with by the Government of Serbia which relaxed the measures and, reportedly, lied about the number of infected and deceased only to hold elections. The trigger for unrest was president Aleksandar Vučić announcement that a weekend curfew would be re-imposed in order to curb a rise in coronavirus cases.

According to the journalists' organisations, the most severe case is one of Beta's reporter, Zikica Stevanovic, who had to be taken to hospital to receive treatment for head injuries. He told UNS what happened last night in Belgrade: "As they (police officers) hit me, I began to fall reflexively, because of the blows, but also to show them that I was not resisting. Although I landed, they continued to beat me. How many of them, I do not know exactly. Judging by the traces of batons from the leaves to the back and head, maybe two, maybe three."

For the second time in two days, Nova S portal journalist Milica Božinović was attacked by the police despite repeatedly identifying herself as a journalist.

Protesters physically attacked Milan Srdić and Lazar Vukadinović, both working for the public broadcaster RTS, in Novi Sad. In that incident, the cameraman Vukadinović' was injured to his hand and his camera was broken, while Srdić experienced verbal insults. In Nis, the RTS team suffered physical assaults and verbal insults, and demonstrators poured water into their camera.

"It is of particular concern the fact that the police used serious physical force against the journalists, even though they had previously identified themselves. Bearing in mind that last night's attacks were more brutal than the previous night and that the police do not respond to appeals to protect journalists and not to attack them, we interpret this behaviour as a deliberate attack on those whose task is to report Serbian citizens on events of public interest," said NUNS in a statement.

The attacks were reported to the Mapping Media Freedom platform and will also be notified to the Council of Europe Platform for the safety of journalists.

The IFJ and EFJ call on the Serbian authorities to conduct a swift and transparent investigation to ensure those responsible for the attacks are brought to justice.

IFJ General Secretary, Anthony Bellanger, said: "We condemn in the strongest possible terms the violent attacks against Serbian journalists for simply doing their job. We stand in solidarity with the victims and fully support our affiliates' call for a thorough investigation of the incidents. No aggression against media workers should go unpunished".

For more information, please contact IFJ on +32 2 235 22 16

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 146 countries

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