The Serbian Center for Investigative Journalism, CINS, will be considering its legal options regarding accusations made by the President of the Serb-controlled half of Bosnia who accused the organization and its editor-in-chief of “destroying regional political structures with money from international organizations.”, reports OCCRP.
Milorad Dodik, the President of Republika Srpska – one of the two semi-autonomous regions that comprise Bosnia and Herzegovina – made the accusations at a press conference in Banja Luka on Tuesday after being asked by reporters about a recently published database containing records of properties owned by Bosnian politicians.
However, the records were published by the Center for Investigative Journalism in Bosnia, not Serbia. Dodik’s file in that database shows 13 items owned by him and his family members, including four apartments, two houses, and a total of some 260,000 square meters of land.
Dodik erroneously claimed that the editor-in-chief of Serbia’s CINS, Dino Jahic, was orchestrating the work of Bosnia’s CIN, OCCRP explains further.
He then went on to say that CINS was using money allocated for the destruction of political structures in the region, putting the publishing of the database in context with the October election and the theme of his Tuesday press conference: his claim that the United States were meddling in Bosnia’s internal affairs by pouring money into dubious projects under the guise of fight against corruption, OCCRP said.
“Dodik did not provide a single piece of evidence for his statement,” CINS said in a statement on Wednesday.
By stating incorrect information and putting them in the wrong context, Dodik is “directly jeopardizing the safety of Jahic, other newsroom members, and their families,” the statement said, adding that fabricating stories and harassing people in order “to win cheap political points” was unacceptable.
CINS also expressed support for their colleagues in Sarajevo who are the true authors of the database and said that it is consulting lawyers to determine its next steps which will include informing relevant local and international organizations and institutions, OCCRP reports.
Dodik’s press conference was held following a campaign on several web portals which had started on the same morning. The text entitled “Dirty affairs of Soros’s instructor” stated a range of untrue facts about CINS and Jahić, such as that he is the instructor to Hungarian students against Hungarian president Viktor Orban and that he disposes with funds at the amount of $38 million USD, the CINS statement reads.
The text first appeared at the portal Infosrpska.ba, but was taken over by the more influential Radio Television of Republika Srpska (public service broadcaster of the entity), the entity news agency SRNA, and Banja Luka-based Alternative Television, CINS explains.
“It is shameful and very detrimental that media outlets, especially those financed from taxpayers’ money, use this manner to label individuals and turn them into targets”, CINS said in the statement.
The Independent Journalists’ Association of Serbia (IJAS/NUNS), CINS’ founder, strongly condemned “the shameful and entirely unfounded attack” by Dodik on Jahić in a statement issued on Thursday.
IJAS is of the opinion that Dodik’s public and insulting naming of the CINS’ editor in chief represents the most direct pressure on media and journalists’ freedom, but also jeopardizing personal safety of Dino Jahić and his colleagues at CINS, the statement reads.
IJAS states that precisely owing to serious, thoroughly corroborated and uncompromising work, CINS newsroom members received in 2017 a series of international, regional and national awards, including the most prominent one – the 2017 European Press Prize in the investigative journalism category.