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Journalist's attackers arrested

(ANEM/IFEX) - Belgrade, August 5, 2010 – Independent Journalists' Association of Serbia (IJAS/NUNS), the Association of Independent Electronic Media (ANEM), local Press and the Independent Journalists' Association of Journalists of Vojvodina (IJAV/NDNV) urge the government to finally ban the work and operations of extremist, fascist, neo-Nazi and racist groups in Serbia.

The latest case of the beating of journalist Teofil Pancic and the fact that the arrested attackers belong to one of the extremist organizations, is the last in a sea of cases of beatings of Serbian citizens just because they are, according to the criminal extremists preaching the ideology of the Aryan race, "different."

The targets of the extremists are small religious communities, members of different ethnicity, LGBT population, NGO activists, politicians, intellectuals. . . For years, the targets have been also journalists who write and report critically, for example our colleague Brankica Stankovic, author of the TV investigative program "Insider", who has been accompanied for months by the police because of threats received from the extremists, namely "soccer fans".

We remind the authorities of adopted amendments to the Criminal Code a year ago, which provide much more rigorous penalties for attacks on journalists. We also remind that, more than a year ago, the Serbian Parliament adopted the Law on the Prohibition of neo-Nazi or fascist events and organization and the use of neo-Nazi and fascist symbols. We remind that last year, the prosecution launched an initiative to ban these organizations and asked the Constitutional Court of Serbia for the opinion on the ban of extremist organizations. Finally, we remind that in 2005, the Assembly of Vojvodina requested the ban of clero-fascists and neo-Nazis in Serbia.

We acknowledge the fact that police have identified Pancic's attackers and express confidence that they will be adequately punished by the judiciary. We also acknowledge the fact that one of the "fans" has been convicted for threats to Brankica Stankovic, although the sentence was, in our opinion, small.

However, if the state really cares about the security of its citizens, it must consider the initiative to ban the extremist organizations. As long as the authorities do not take proper measures against the organizations' activities, no journalists, who are committed to the values of civil society, will ever be safe, and with that, neither will citizens who are "different".

Sasa Mirkovic,
ANEM President

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