BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA: SEEMO Calls on Police in Republika Srpska (Bosnia and Herzegovina) to Protect Journalists

BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA, 17/06/2011

The Vienna-based South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), an affiliate of the International Press Institute (IPI), calls on the police authorities in Republika Srpska, Bosnia and Herzegovina, to protect journalists from physical threat.

On 13 June 2011, a group of journalists from Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia gathered in a village near Bijeljina (Republika Srpska, Bosnia and Herzegovina) in order to cover a funeral procession. Police officers were deployed in order to keep the reporters away from the family compound of a well-known athlete, whose family organised the funeral.

However, while the reporters were waiting for the procession to pass by, unidentified civilians threatened them with beatings and even death if they tried to take photographs or write about the procession. Eventually, the journalists were chased away, while the police did not intervene.

In the same incident, two civilians approached Vladimir Mitric, a journalist for the Belgrade-based Vecernje Novosti, who is stationed in Loznica in Western Serbia, and threatened to come to his home town and kill him. This case is of particular concern to SEEMO. As SEEMO reported on 15 September 2005, Mitric was severely beaten by a former policemen and judicial procedures are still ongoing. Since then, Mitric has been living under 24-hour police protection. However, Serbian police are not responsible for his safety when he travels to Republika Srpska. Mitric has written on crime and corruption in Western Serbia and Republika Srpska. This latest death threat against the journalist needs to be taken seriously: the unidentified civilians knew about his police protection and said that they would kill him anyway if he wrote about the funeral procession, Mitric told SEEMO. Police officers observed the situation without reacting.

"The police authorities in Republika Srpska, Bosnia and Herzegovina, have to guarantee the safety of all journalists working in the area under their jurisdiction. It is not acceptable that police officers look the other way while unidentified civilians threaten journalists with death," said Oliver Vujovic, SEEMO Secretary General.

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