Balkan Journalists Vulnerable to Attacks, Study Shows

A new study conducted in five Balkan countries says journalists in the region enjoy very low levels of protection from physical attacks, death threats and other pressures – and blames governments for doing little or nothing to improve matters.

by Natalia Zaba, BIRN, Belgrade

A study conducted in Bosna and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Serbia, Macedonia and Montenegro by the Western Balkans Platform for Advocating Media Freedom and Journalists Safety, concludes that journalists remain vulnerable to physical attacks and other pressures, and have few ways of defending themselves effectively.

The study presented by the Independent Journalists Association of Serbia, NUNS, says governments are not interested in improving the situation in the media, or only do so declaratively, as they are often the direct or indirect source of the pressures.

Seven physical attacks on journalists were recorded in Bosnia from 2013 to 2016, 35 in Macedonia and one physical attack and seven on media property in Montenegro.

Twelve physical attacks and thirteen attacks on media property were recorded in Kosovo and 33 physical attacks on journalists were recorded in Serbia.

Serbia also took the lead in failing to solve murder cases involving journalists. Trials for the murders or deaths of the journalists Slavko Curuvija, Dada Vujasinovic and Milan Pantic have not revealed who or what was responsible for their premature deaths. Editor and media owner Curuvija was murdered in 1999. Vujasinovic was found dead in her apartment in 1994. Pantic was killed near his home in 2001.

Cases of journalists who have received death threats in Serbia and have been living under the police protection for years, such as Brankica Stankovic or Vladimir Mitric, also remain unresolved.

Judicial systems are not effective as state governments in the region appear uninterested in solving investigations effectively, the report says.

Over the three years, the number of threats to journalists has increased and the trend is towards further growth, it adds.

The study laments that none of the countries has developed a strategy with a special focus on journalists’ protection in recent years.

Apart from physical threats, journalists in the region are vulnerable to other environmental and work-related pressures, the report says.

“Mobbing, blackmailing, low salaries or/and irregular payments, frequent overtime, unpaid work and lack of work contracts are only some of the situations that journalists from the region face on a daily basis,” the report reads.

Download the study Indicators on the Level of Media Freedom and Journalists’ Safety in the Western Balkans

 

The article was originally published by Balkan Insight. It is republished here with permission. 

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* - References to Kosovo are without prejudice to positions on status. They are in line with United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244/99 and the opinion by the International Court of Justice on the Kosovo declaration of independence.