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<nettime> Statement in view of the threats to B92 journalists and newsroom staff

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  
Sne?ana 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 Karad?iæ?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 Karad?iæ.

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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