Calls for justice after Bosnian reporter brutally beaten

vladimirkovacevic [Twitter account of Vladimir Kovacevic]

Bosnian journalists on Monday (27 August) demanded justice after a reporter said he was severely beaten by unknown attackers after covering politically-sensitive protests.

The US and European Union also condemned the assault on Vladimir Kovacevic, a journalist who works for the TV network BN in Bosnia’s Serb-run entity.

On Sunday night he posted a photo on Twitter of his bloodied face and bandaged head.

The two attackers “clearly knew where I lived… when I passed by them they began to beat me brutally,” wrote Kovacevic, who was hospitalised in Banja Luka, the administrative capital of Republika Srpska.

The incident sparked outcry among local media, who reported that scores of people, including many journalists, gathered in Banja Luka on Monday to protest the attack.

“One of us has been attacked,” said the president of Bosnia’s journalists’ association Marko Divkovic.

“It looks like a case of organised terror from politicians, the justice system and the police,” he alleged, adding that he feared more trouble for Bosnian journalists in the run-up to October 7 elections.

Reporters in Bosnia are routinely subjected to verbal attacks, threats and libel lawsuits in a country with a deeply polarised political climate.

Kovacevic was attacked while returning from covering a demonstration over the death of 21-year-old student David Dragicevic.

The young man’s death has become a symbol of corruption and injustice with protesters accusing authorities of a cover-up.

The demonstrations — held daily since March — have become the leading political issue in Bosnia’s Serb-run entity as elections near.

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The US Embassy in Sarajevo condemned the attack and other recent physical assaults of journalists as “unacceptable”.

The EU’s delegation in Bosnia also denounced the incident and said it was closely tracking press freedom as it analyses the country’s application for membership in the bloc.

Harlem Désir,  a media representative for the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), also deplored the beating saying “the negative rhetoric being used against the media must end, in order to prevent further such attacks against journalists.”

“I urge the authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina to swiftly investigate this attack and bring its perpetrators to justice,” he added.

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