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Court dismisses all charges against football hooligans who threatened B92 journalist

(ANEM/IFEX) - Belgrade, April 23, 2010 - The Association of Independent Electronic Media (ANEM) strongly protests against further threatening of personal safety of journalists in Serbia, especially in the cases of Brankica Stankovic, a journalist working for ANEM's member, TV B92, and Vukasin Obradovic, the vice president of the Independent Journalists' Association of Serbia (NUNS) and the editor-in-chief of the newspaper "Vranjske".

On 22 April, the First Primary Court in Belgrade acquitted six "Partizan" football fans of all charges of threatening the safety of B92's journalist, Brankica Stankovic. The court decided that their message - that she would meet the same fate as Slavko Curuvija - and their acts - kicking, throwing and punching of a doll made in her image - did not represent a serious threat that would endanger the safety of the journalist, and that the actions should be considered only an insult and be treated as a civil lawsuit.

Vukasin Obradovic said that he was worried about the safety of his journalists and family members after a series of lawsuits and charges submitted against him by Goran Tasic Gokce because of the articles published in the "Vranjske" newspaper. According to "Vranjske", there are two ongoing legal proceedings against Tasic related to an attempted murder. Tasic was described as an important political figure and one of the leaders of the New Serbia political party in Vranje, and has been charged with 21 criminal acts. Vukasin Obradovic claims that after publishing an article about Tasic in the "Vranjske" newspaper, an unknown man approached his daughter and told her that her father would be murdered.

ANEM points out that threats journalists are exposed to after reporting on past or ongoing legal proceedings against the leaders of football fan groups or other extremist groups, like in the case of Brankica Stankovic, or against powerful local figures, like in the case of Vukasin Obradovic and "Vranjske", the trivialization of such threats in domestic courts and their legal reduction to common insults, result not only in endangering of safety of the most courageous and professional members of the journalistic community, but also send a clear message to the media that there are topics that should not be publicly discussed.

Not only have Brankica Stankovic and Vukasin Obradovic been left without adequate protection, but everyone's right to freedom of expression has been endangered. This right includes the right of the public to receive information about events and individuals that the public has a right to know.

The fight of the state and society against organized crime and violence, which has been declared by state officials as one of the highest priorities, is inconceivable and impossible without a free media and journalists who can report on issues of public interest without fear for their own and their family members' lives.

ANEM expresses full solidarity with Brankica Stankovic, Vukasin Obradovic and all the other journalists who have been exposed to threats because of their professional activities. ANEM calls on the authorities to take appropriate measures to ensure the safety of the threatened journalists, as well as other strong measures within their authority to protect the law, the freedom of expression and the role of the media in a democratic society.

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