Bosnian Journalist Brutally Attacked in Banja Luka

Image from Kovacevic's tweet posted on 12:17 PM - 26 Aug 2018

Vladimir Kovacevic, a journalist at BN TV, one of the main media in Bosnia’s Serb-dominated entity, Republika Srpska, was attacked on Sunday in front of his home in Banja Luka, the administrative centre of the entity, BN TV reported.

Two persons waited for Kovačević in front of the building he lives in, attacked him with telescoping metal poles and inflicted him heavy bodily injury, reports the Western Balkans’ Balkan’s Regional Platform for advocating media freedom and journalists’ safety.

That night, Kovacevic had been covering the latest “Justice for David” protest in Banja Luka. For 155 days, the parents of David Dragicevic and citizens have been holding public protests, trying to force the authorities to resolve the case of the unexplained death of the 21-year-old man, Balkan Insight reports.

“Before he was attacked, he sent material that will be published on Monday,” Suzana Radjen Todoric, editor-in-chief of BN TV, wrote on her Twitter profile, Balkan Insight reports.

The Western Balkan’s Regional Platform for advocating media freedom and journalists’ safety, which represents more than 8000 members, strongly condemned the brutal attack, noting that Kovačević was attacked shortly after he has sent his reports from the city demonstrations and after a series of verbal attacks and political pressures on journalists from BN by public officials in this entity.

BN TV started its morning programme on Monday with a blank screen and message: “Open protest over the attack on a BN TV journalist. We are asking the Republika Srpska MUP [police] to reveal the attacker.”, Balkan Insight reports.

Milorad Dodik, President of Republika Srpska, condemned the attack as an attack on media freedom that cannot be tolerated, calling on the police to urgently investigate the case.

However, the umbrella Bosnian and Herzegovinian Journalists’ Association (BHJA / BH Novinari), in its statement condemning the brutal attack on Kovacevic, emphasized that:

“President Milorad Dodik has directed his public and political activity too often to journalists and media, humiliated them and insulted them in the most primitive ways; proclaiming them enemies, spies and foreign mercenaries, making them a “living target” and opening up space for direct violence.”

The Association adds that:

“These threats and attacks have never been sanctioned, nor did the relevant police and judicial institutions of RS undertake effective and legally prescribed measures to protect journalists and their right to free and dignified work.”

Therefore, the Steering Committee of BHJA in the statement resolutely requested from the Minstry of Republica Srpska an urgent and professional investigation on the attack on Vladimir Kovačević.

“If the public is not informed about all the circumstances of the attack, including the names of the attackers and those behind them, in the shortest period of time not exceeding 5 days, we will consider the highest officials and institutions of Republika Srpska directly responsible for this criminal act.”, the statement reads.

Data from Bosnian associations of Journalist note 40 cases this year in which journalists have reported that they were victims – including five death threats and 14 assaults and other forms of pressures, Balkan Insight reports.

Media unions, TV stations and political leaders have condemned the attack on Vladimir Kovacevic.

 “Attacking and threatening journalists is a direct attack on freedom of expression and the right of citizens to be informed. Each attack on journalists is the attack on public interest, democracy and rights of all citizens”, reads the statement by the Western Balkan’s Regional Platform for advocating media freedom and journalists’ safety.