Center for Investigative Journalism of Serbia: Our Journalists are being Followed and Photographed

Four journalists of the Center for Investigative Journalism of Serbia (CIJS) noticed on several occasions in the past days different persons following them around the city of Belgrade and taking their photographs, CIJS claims.

by Marija Vucic

CIJS director, Branko Cecen, said that the journalists of this investigative journalism organization noticed on four occasions, on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, that someone was following them and photographing them in the street using telephone.  CIJS journalists and editors interpret this as an attempt at intimidation – albeit an unsuccessful one, Cecen stated.

According to Cecen, the persons that the journalists noticed were mainly “men of somewhat rough appearance”. In one case a journalist was photographed by a girl unknown to her, in front of the entrance to the building where CIJS premises are located.

“This happened on several occasions in the street and in cafés. In one instance a man entered a café after CIJS journalists and stayed there unusually long, all the time looking at them and taking their pictures with his phone.  The journalists had no communication with these people”, Cecen said.

CIJS journalists noticed that they were photographed also on 13 October. Due to all this they think that the events are not a coincidence. Therefore, this was all reported to the police and the First basic public prosecutor’s office in Belgrade.

“We shall see what the institutions will say and whether there are elements of criminal act in this. In any case, we take this very seriously and worry about the safety of our journalists. We have in mind a U.S. research according to which 70% of physical assaults on journalists happens with no warning, while almost all are preceded with gathering data on journalists’ whereabouts”, Branko Cecen stressed.

“No one can prevent us from publishing stories”

Branko Cecen is convinced that CIJS journalists are being followed because of investigative stories they are currently working on or those they have published in recent months.

Any of these stories could be a motive for these events which CIJS deems an attempt at intimidation.

“It is scandalous that someone is intimidating journalists in the country where murders of journalists are not a hypothesis – instead they happened three times. Any tolerance towards this is tolerance towards stifling freedom of information”, CIJS director added.

Although this is the first time they noticed they’ve been followed, the journalists of this investigative newsroom have faced various pressures so far – hacking of their e-mail, hacking of CIJS website on three occasions, legal threats or, as Cecen put it, “indirect political pressures”.

However, Cecen said, none of this stopped CIJS, and the current events will neither.

“CIJS will fully investigate all stories and there is no way to stop us, except to physically prevent us all. Intimidation or anything else targeted at one, two or three persons here will not stop us from investigating and publishing what is important for the citizens. There is a general principle among investigative journalists – a story must be published in the end”, Cecen concluded.

The article was originally published by Cenzolovka.rs on 2 November 2016. Translation by SEENPM. 

Photo: Cenzolovka / Perica Gunjic

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