The Council of Europe Platform to promote the protection of journalism and safety of journalists yesterday listed the case of journalist Miodrag Sovilj of TV N1 who has been faced with intimidation, threats and smear campaign after he posed questions to Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić over a controversial issue involving a high ranking politician.
Here is the text featured on the Platform:
Serbian journalist Miodrag Sovilj has been the target of a storm of criticism by media and officials close to the government. The reason for this backlash was the hospitalisation of Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vučić for health reasons hours after he publicly confronted him with allegations of government corruption.
President Vučić was opening a children’s park on 15 November in Belgrade when N1 reporter questioned him over the alleged role of Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic’s father in the suspect purchase of state-produced arms. An exchange of several minutes took place filmed by a camera. The journalist repeatedly asked the President whether he knows the document on his mobile phone – supposed to be the proof demonstrating the conflict of interest – while President Vučić asks him several times to read out the whole document, affirming he is not aware of the document’s existence and can’t read it. In the end, Vučić gave an evasive response and asked the anti-corruption agency to investigate.
Following this exchange, Miodrag Sovilj faced intimidation, threats and smear campaign. He was accused by officials and media of “provoking the President”, of being rude, offensive and disrespectful, having a “shameful behaviour” that led to the deterioration of Vučić’s health – an insinuation that was denied by the President himself afterwards. Photos of the journalist were taken from his student MySpace account and published to portray him as an alcoholic and drug addict.