Threats Force Bosnian Journalist to Accept Police Protection

The award-winning Bosnian journalist Dragan Bursac speaks about the difficulties of working under the special police protection he has received after receiving numerous death threats.

by Mladen Lakic, BIRN, Sarajevo

A Bosnian columnist who is well known for his critical writing about nationalism has been put under police protection after receiving numerous deaths threats.

While Bosnia is ranked 62th in the world out of 180 countries in terms of press freedom in the latest World Press Freedom Index, which is higher than the result in 2017, when it was ranked 65th, Dragan Bursac has not benefited from this progress.

“So far, only one person out of seven still remains unknown, or at least I have not been told if he is identified, while the other cases are before the prosecution office,” Bursac told BIRN, referring to those who have threatened him.

His location is now a secret besides other measures that police in Bosnia’s Serb-dominated entity, Republika Srpska, are taking to secure him and his family, Bursac explained.

His latest problems started last July, when he published a column titled, “Does Banja Luka celebrate genocide in Srebrenica?” in which he expressed deep revulsion at a planned demonstration in support of the former Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladic, under whose auspices Bosnian Serb troops killed some 8,000 Bosniaks in the eastern town of Srebrenica in July 1995 – the worst atrocity in Europe since the end of the Second World War.

The protest was to be held under the slogan “Support for General Ratko Mladic – Stop the Lies about Srebrenica.”

It was scheduled for July 11 – the same day as the annual commemoration of the massacre of Bosniaks in Srebrenica by Bosnian Serb forces under Mladic, but was eventually cancelled.

Bursac said he was appalled by the inaction of the courts. “The problem is in the judiciary. Specifically, the persons who threaten me and my family not only are not sanctioned but furthermore, under their full names and surnames, they continue to threaten me, showing me and the world, that for now, no one can do anything to them,” Bursac said.

Bursac won the European Press Prizes 2018 in the “Opinion” category for his column “The Third Shooting of the Boy Petar from Konjic”, in March this year.

But he says that awards have not changed the situation regarding his own safety.

“Yes, I received the award for the best European columnist. Yes, people from Brussels are familiar with all the problems that I encounter, but this recognition is for my work, not for the resulting situation that it may produce. I would be happy that my country is like that, where no one targets you because you do your job properly and honestly,” Bursac commented.

Although the threats and security measures are having an obvious impact on his job, Bursac said he has no intention of giving up.

“I must and I will work and obviously, there are difficulties of a logistical nature when I have to spend all day or days in a police station rather than a newsroom,” Bursac told BIRN.

Meanwhile, while he appreciates the support he has won from colleagues and journalist associations, he is well aware of the limits of that support.

“People can like me or hate me, me or my work but that is all OK for as long as there are no explicit threats,” Bursac concluded.

The prosecution office of Republika Srpska told BIRN it cannot reveal or comment on any ongoing cases.

The article was republished from Balkan Insight with permission. 

Read more:

Bosnian Reporter Flees After Condemning Mladic Rally

Bosnia’s Bursac Wins European Press Prize

Looming Election Worsens Partisan Bias in Bosnia’s Media