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.
In #Bosnia's RS entity, regime-critical journalists are already branded as traitors. Some of them get beaten up like Vladimir Kovačević from BN TV. This happened in #BanjaLuka last night. Disturbing. #PressFreedom https://t.co/80NBpNf1jg
— Nedad Memić (@NedadMemic) August 27, 2018
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.
Some 100 journalists gathered in the city of Banja Luka in Bosnia's Republika Srpska entity today to show support for their colleague Vladimir Kovacevic, who was attacked outside his home last night by unknown assailants, local media report.
— Balkan Insight (@BalkanInsight) August 27, 2018
“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.
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.
Journalists must be able to perform their work in full safety in #BiH. Attacks on media, as in the most recent case of Vladimir Kovacevic, are violations of journalists’ rights, as their safety is a precondition for free speech and free media. → https://t.co/iyftHxDg9a pic.twitter.com/kaIo3ZJ28b
— EU in BiH (@eubih) August 27, 2018
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.
Together with @OSCEBiH Ambassador Berton, we strongly condemn the physical attack against journalist @corbapas last night in #BanjaLuka. We urge the #BiH authorities to swiftly investigate and bring the perpetrators to justice. #JournoSafe
Full statement: https://t.co/6rjrtVr1UQ pic.twitter.com/sI8ndJFyeq
— OSCE media freedom (@OSCE_RFoM) August 27, 2018
Very saddened by assault on journalist #VladimirKovačević. I express my solidarity to him & call on the authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina to identify & punish those responsible & do more to ensure that journalists can work freely & safely https://t.co/MhKAXyykf7
— Commissioner for Human Rights (@CommissionerHR) August 27, 2018