Milan Pantic

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Nationalists suffered a series of political defeats in 2008 and responded by lashing out against independent journalists and liberal reformers with threats and physical attacks. A reformist-nationalist coalition government led by the conservative Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica during the first half of the year and by liberal President Boris Tadic during the second half failed to adequately protect journalists from these abuses. The nationalists targeted independent journalists, rights activists, and reformist politicians for "betraying" Serbia, while police and prosecutors regularly turned a blind eye.

August 9, 2007
POSTED September 12, 2007

Stefan Cvetkovic, TNT, Bela Crkva

On August 9, Cvetkovic, editor in chief of the independent radiotelevision station TNT in the city of Bela Crkva, about 100 km (62 miles) east of the capital, Belgrade, received two anonymous phone calls from an unidentified number. A male voice threatened to kill him and uttered profanities at him, the independent Belgrade-based broadcaster B92 reported. Cvetkovic believes the threats are in response to his station’s critical coverage of local authorities.

Dear Prime Minister Kostunica:

The Committee to Protect Journalists is deeply dismayed by the Serbian Interior Ministry's failure to promptly respond to a credible death threat made against Grujica Spasovic, editor-in-chief of the Belgrade-based independent daily Danas (Today). An anonymous telephone threat was made to the newspaper on June 11 after Danas reported that your government has identified the town where indicted war criminal Ratko Mladic is hiding. We call on you to ensure that the threat is thoroughly investigated and that appropriate protection is provided to Spasovic.
Serbia and Montenegro

Political paralysis consumed Serbia for much of 2004. Conservative reformists and ultranationalists argued over the bloody legacy of former President Slobodan Milosevic and refused to extradite Serbs indicted for war crimes to The Hague–based U.N. -tribunal. Amid a chaotic and polarized atmosphere, journalists were vulnerable to -intimidation from politicians, government agencies, businessmen, accused war criminals, and organized crime.
| Serbia
Serbia's ruling reformist coalition, the Democratic Opposition of Serbia, (DOS), struggled to come to terms with the legacy of corruption and extreme nationalism left by a decade of rule under former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. Political division in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, powerful organized crime groups, and political apathy kept the conflict-ridden DOS coalition on the brink of collapse after the assassination of the prime minister in March.
During 2002, the intense political and personal rivalry between Yugoslav president Vojislav Kostunica, a conservative nationalist, and Serbian prime minister Zoran Djindjic, a pragmatic reformist, consumed politics in Serbia, the dominant republic in the Yugoslav federation. The conflict, which stalled government reforms, was further complicated
by negotiations between the two Yugoslav republics of Serbia and Montenegro on transforming the Yugoslav federation into a union of two sovereign states. The possibility that the Yugoslav presidency would no longer exist forced Kostunica to run for the Serbian presidency in the fall against a Djindjic ally, Miroslav Labus. Voter apathy was so high that neither candidate garnered more than 50 percent of the electorate, leaving the presidency empty at year's end.

Your Excellency:

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is concerned about threats made against Vukasin Obradovic, the owner and editor-in-chief of the Vranje-based weekly Novine Vranjske, and Goran Antic, a reporter with the publication, in retaliation for reporting allegations of sexual abuse made against Serbian Orthodox Bishop Pahomije. The bishop's secular name is Tomislav Gacic.

In early January, Novine Vranjske began publishing a series of articles about five boys from the southern Serbian city of Vranje who have accused Bishop Pahomije of sexual abuse over a period of several years and are pressing criminal charges against him. Bishop Pahomije is the leader of the local Serbian Orthodox Diocese in Vranje.

Progress Denied

Even with Milosevic in jail, Serbia and Bosnia remain dangerous for the independent press.

New York, April 11, 2002—On the third anniversary of the murder of journalist Slavko Curuvija, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) remains deeply concerned that the government has made no progress investigating the case.

On April 11, 1999, Curuvija, editor-in-chief of the Belgrade daily Dnevni Telegraf, was gunned down near his home in central Belgrade by two men wearing dark clothing and black masks.

The revolutionary political changes of late 2000 and early 2001 that ousted former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic ended a decade of repression for Yugoslavia's independent journalists. But after a year in power, the Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS), which replaced Milosevic, failed to enact needed reforms in media-related laws. And while the DOS proved far less heavy-handed than Milosevic, its leaders have not hesitated to apply more subtle pressures on independent media that do not embrace DOS policies.

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