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Journalist Slobodan Vaskovic threatened following reports about the Serbian Orthodox Church, angry citizens attack television crew and seize camera

(IPI/IFEX) - The following is a press release by the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), an IPI affiliate:

SEEMO/IPI condemns threats against journalists in Republika Srpska (Bosnia and Herzegovina)

Vienna, 26 March 2009

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) strongly condemns the recent threats made against Slobodan Vaskovic, a journalist from Banja Luka, Republika Srpska (Bosnia and Herzegovina). Vaskovic received a threatening letter, signed by a group calling itself the Serbian Avengers, following reports about the Serbian Orthodox Church in his publication, Novi Magazin. According to the postmark, the letter was sent from the town of Trebinje, Republika Srpska, on 11 March 2009.

On 18 March, Vaskovic was again threatened while reporting from Trebinje for the Sarajevo-based television station FTV. Vaskovic and his crew were in Trebinje filming for the programme, 60 Minutes, which is well known for its reporting on political issues. The TV crew were filming in front of the gate of an Orthodox church when two individuals emerged from a car and started to intimidate the journalists.

Vaskovic and his TV crew were then attacked by a group of angry citizens while at the offices of a local non-governmental organisation, where they had sought protection and were reporting to the police about the incident near the church. Reporters for TV BN, who happened to be on the spot, attempted to film the assault on their colleagues from FTV, but their camera was seized by the crowd. The camera was returned a half hour later following an intervention by TV BN headquarters in Bijeljina and by the chief of police.

Police eventually escorted the FTV crew out of Trebinje. However, the crowd continued to chase them for some time. Republika Srpska police have initiated an investigation into the incident, but so far no concrete results have been published.

Commenting on the case, Oliver Vujovic, SEEMO Secretary General, said, "SEEMO strongly condemns these attacks against journalists in Republika Srpska. The media play an important role in a democratic society and it is therefore essential that reporters are able to work in an open environment and without fear of harassment." Vujovic added, "To threaten a TV crew and prevent it from carrying out its work is a serious attack on press freedom and must be prevented from occurring in the future. SEEMO therefore welcomes the investigation initiated by the Republika Srpska police."

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