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Journalist detained, interrogated over Facebook post about Serbian flooods

The EFJ has learned today that RTV Mladenovac's journalist Dragan Nikolic was yesterday detained and interrogated by the Serbian police services following a critical comment published on his Facebook profile about the government handling of the recent floods.

According to the EFJ affiliate, the Sindikat novinara Srbije (JUS - Journalists' Union of Serbia), Dragan Nikolic was detained by the Serbian police following a complaint filed by the Serbian MP Milorad Cvetnovic accusing the journalist of “causing damages to the dignity of a high-level official at the ruling party, SNS, named Goran Vesic” (SNS is the ruling conservative Serbian Progressive Party of the Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic).

The EFJ considers that the arbitrary detention and interrogation of a professional journalist shows the deteriorating media freedom in the country and the increasing political pressure facing journalists.

Having examined the police order, the EFJ has given its backing to the Independent Association of Serbian Journalists (NUNS) which protested against the high profile arrest of Nikolic.

In a public statement , the NUNS reminded the government that freedom of expression is guaranteed by the Constitution of Serbia, the public information as well as the European Convention on Human Rights. One of the fundamental freedoms of the media in a democratic society is to report on any subject of public interest. Parties and state officials are by definition more exposed to public interest and thus to the journalists criticisms.

UNS (Udruženje novinara Srbije), EFJ affiliate, also "expressed concern that individuals in government positions easily blame media for criticism and file complaints to the police against journalists".

"A huge community of journalists in Europe is backing the right of Dragan Nicolic and other journalists to freedom of expression. The Serbian government must stop the climate of fear and allow journalists to work freely and independently," said the EFJ.

The EFJ will also send a letter to the Serbian Prime minister Aleksandar Vucic demanding that the Serbian journalists' associations and trade union must be consulted before any media law discussed or adopted at the Parliament. "Only dialogues with the journalists associations and trade unions and trust building initiatives may restore a new climate of trust in Serbia," added the EFJ.

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