SEEMO: Serbian correspondent threatened
Group urges authorities to extend journalists’ protection to cover entire country
By: SEEMO Staff
VIENNA, Sep 23, 2012 – The Vienna-based South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), an affiliate of the International Press Institute (IPI), today expressed concern about continuing threats against journalist Vladimir Mitric, a correspondent of the Belgrade-based daily Vecernje Novosti in Loznica, in western Serbia.
Mitric was threatened again on Sept. 15 despite being under 24-hour police protection. The veteran journalist – who specialises in uncovering corruption in western Serbia and in Republika Srpska, Bosnia and Herzegovina – has been under police protection since October 2005, after a former policeman beat him severely. Six years after that incident, the Court of Appeals in Belgrade sentenced the assailant to one year in prison, increasing the sentence from one handed out earlier by a local court.
The latest threat against Mitric occurred while he was sitting in a café in the village of Trsic, near Loznica, when an individual approached him and warned that he should stop writing about certain political figures. The individual insulted Mitric several times and allegedly told Mitric that he must be a bad man if he needed police protection. Mitric did not ask the policeman who was accompanying him to intervene and opted to leave the premises.
On the road to Loznica, Mitric and the accompanying policeman entered another café, when another policeman, who previously was in charge of protecting Mitric, called and asked where they were sitting. After learning where the two men were having coffee, the policeman, accompanied by the aggressor from the previous café, arrived and they confronted Mitric over his reporting. The policeman allegedly blamed Mitric for his career problems. The individual who initially threatened Mitric then allegedly hit the café’s owner, who was trying to calm the situation down.
Threats against Mitric, who has worked for Vecernje Novosti since 1996, started 10 years ago. Between 2003 and 2005, the reporter’s car was destroyed three times and the police did not find any of the perpetrators. In 2005, he was beaten with a baseball bat and suffered numerous fractures. Soon after the aggression, he was assigned police protection but only within the radius of approximately 50 kilometres of his hometown. Loznica is approximately 120 kilometres from Belgrade, leaving Mitric with no protection if he travels to Belgrade for work or for medical treatment.
In June 2011, as SEEMO reported, two civilians approached Mitric in Bijeljina (Republika Srpska, Bosnia and Herzegovina) and threatened to come to his hometown and kill him. In addition, Mitric claims to have received numerous verbal threats and letters, but he did not report them. Recently, SEEMO learned, a senior police officer told Mitric that he was lucky to have police protection, considering the topics he writes about.
While SEEMO welcomed the decision to provide Vladimir Mitric with police protection, the group said it believed that Mitric’s protection should cover the whole of Serbia, rather than only one county.
“I request Serbia’s police authorities to extend police protection for Vladimir Mitric and include the territory of the entire country,” SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic said. “While I would prefer that no journalist needs protection, I do welcome the protection when the police believe that reporters’ lives are in danger. In fact, there are several journalists in Serbia in this situation but only Mitric is protected only in one county. I think that his protection should be extended and that Mitric should feel safe to live and work in his country.”
Vujovic added: “I hope that police in Loznica investigate the latest threats against Mitric and bring the perpetrator to justice.”