Bosnian journalists protest after brutal attack on reporter

Bosnian journalists protest after brutal attack on reporter
Journalist Vladimir Kovacevic photographed in his hospital bed after being beaten up outside his home in Banja Luka.
By Denitsa Koseva in Sofia August 29, 2018

Journalists in three towns in Bosnia & Herzegovina protested on August 28 after their colleague Vladimir Kovacevic was attacked in front of his home by unknown people. The protesters demanded an end to violence against journalists.

Kovacevic was brutally beaten by the two unknown assailants shortly after he reported on yet another day of protests seeking justice for David Dragicevic, a 21-year old man who was found dead in the river Crkvena in March. Dragicevic’s family have been campaigning for months to have his death properly investigating, and have led daily protests in Banja Luka. With elections approaching in October, there are fears politicians will capitalise on the tragedy, which has become an emotive issue in Bosnia. 

Police are investigating the attack on Kovacevic, a reporter at the local BN TV, one of the main TV station in Bosnia’s Republika Srpska, as a suspected murder attempt and have already questioned 20 people, according to BN TV.

Journalists in the capital Sarajevo and the towns of Mostar and Zenica staged peaceful protests against all attacks against their colleagues, seeking a secure working environment.

The union of journalists in Bosnia condemned the attack on Kovacevic and said the alleged murder attempt was even more alarming as it took place shortly after he reported on the protests over Dragicevic’s death, which have lasted for months. 

According to the police’s initial version of events, Dragicevic most likely drowned, but as his body was covered with bruises his family suspects that this was not true. The police’s failure to reveal what has happened had triggered the protests.

For months people have been gathering every evening in Banja Luka, seeking justice. Two more families who have lost their children joined the Dragicevic family, and their fate angered people in Bosnia’s smaller entity where the number of protesters is constantly rising.

Slobodan Vaskovic, an influential Bosnian blogger, quoted Dragicevic’s father as saying his son was tortured then murdered by policemen. 

Bosnia has been criticised by many international institutions for the lack of freedom of expression and independent media. In June, the European Commission pushed the country to address this.

According to a report released by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) in April, Bosnia ranked 62nd out of 180 countries in terms of media freedom.

“The polarised political climate, marked by constant verbal attacks and nationalist rhetoric, is not a favourable environment for press freedom. Editorial policies reflect ethnic divisions and hate speech is ever more evident. Journalists are attacked for their ethnic origins as well as what they write,” RSF has noted.