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ANEM calls on authorities to protect B92 journalists

(ANEM/IFEX) - BELGRADE, December 7, 2009 - The Association of Independent Electronic Media (ANEM) strongly protests against new attacks on ANEM member station RTV B92, and threats against journalists and the writers for B92's program "Insider". ANEM demands that officials protect the threatened journalists, immediately apprehend and punish those responsible for threats against "Insider" writer Brankica Stankovic and her team and publicly announce the results of the investigation as quickly as possible.

Threats of rape, throat-slitting and murder followed after the airing of the program "(Lack of) Power of the State" last Thursday, which dealt with leaders of extreme groups of football fans whose banning was recently demanded by the public prosecutor. The program broadcast by B92 described more than one hundred criminal charges against the leaders of football fan groups filed by the police in recent years – and revealed to B92 in accordance with the Law on Free Access to Information of Public Importance – which have usually not resulted in effective legal verdicts.

Despite the announcement by Serbian president Boris Tadic that the state would not tolerate violence from hooligans and criminals and that it had taken all necessary steps to protect journalists, as well as the statement by Minister of Internal Affairs Ivica Dacic that the police had done everything in their power to apprehend those responsible for the threats, no results have been achieved yet. Threats against journalists have become even more brutal, vulgar and crude. The threats are being sent via social networking groups on the Internet and written on the buildings where journalists live and other places in Belgrade.

ANEM notes that the B92 employees have been the victims of continuous pressure for almost two years and that during all that time the building they work in, and in many cases journalists as well, have been under police protection. Due to its fight for freedom of expression, the democratization of society, the rule of law and more efficient institutions, B92 has been targeted in Belgrade and elsewhere in Serbia. Pressure was also felt during the riots in Belgrade after the unilateral declaration of Kosovo independence; during the protests against the arrest of Radovan Karadzic, when a B92 cameraman was seriously injured; during the events relating to the announced but later canceled Pride Parade due to threats by extremist groups; and during the recent series of attacks on foreigners and the brutal murder of French citizen Brice Taton in downtown Belgrade. Criminal proceedings against members of an extreme group of football fans charged with this murder have already begun.

ANEM fully supports the colleagues from B92 and calls on Serbian officials to provide adequate working conditions for B92 and all other media outlets in Serbia that are necessary to achieve democratization of society and protect freedom of expression. These conditions must entail the right to inform the public without fear for one's own life and the lives of loved ones. ANEM points out that, apart from the announcements given by top officials in recent days, it is necessary to take specific actions to stop and prevent the violence. ANEM calls on officials to demonstrate their ability to fight the perpetrators of such behavior.

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