IJAS: Continuous verbal attacks and insults of journalists by head public officials must stop

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The Independent Journalists Association of Serbia strongly condemns the targeting and insulting of Jasmina Dobrilovic, a journalist from Newsmax Adria, as well as colleagues from Danas and the Zig info portal. In the last week, our colleagues have been exposed to continuous attacks, belittling and insults from public officials, which additionally contributes to the polarization of our society and makes it impossible to inform citizens in the public interest.

Namely, the Minister of Health, Zlatibor Loncar, during the opening of the Covid Hospital in Novi Sad, got into a verbal conflict with the journalist, stating that the media he works for is, among other things, owned by the President of the Freedom and Justice Party, Dragan Djilas.  Asked by the journalist if he could prove it, if she sued him for those allegations, Loncar said: ” Sue me and I will prove it.” The Minister ended his presentation with a sexist remark, advising the journalist Dobrilović “not to get upset because it affects beauty”.

On the other hand, the colleagues of the Zig Info portal were unfoundedly accused in a statement made by the Municipality of Grocka dated on August 30 for publishing information regarding the engagement of Gordana Uzelac in that municipality. The statement states that our colleagues are lying and it denies the fact that Gordana Uzelac is engaged in the municipality as a communicologist – media advisor to the president of Grocka, although there is written evidence for that which was published on the Zig Info portal. After this announcement, the local board of the Serbian Progressive Party continued with this type of pressure and issued its statement where, using an inappropriate dictionary, they continued to target all media that transmitted the news from the Zig Info portal.

On her Twitter account on September 2, Prime Minister Ana Brnabic called our colleagues of the daily Danas “eloquent lies” because of the text in the economic section on the differences between the consumer basket and the average salary and pension from 2010 to 2020. The night before, the Prime minister and the president   used their appearance on Pink television to once again deal with the critical media and put them on the side of their political opponents.

We remind you that the government officials are obliged to answer questions to journalists, since the journalistic profession is not and must not be in the service of political bribery, nor is it used for pre-election clashes with political rivals, and that no one, especially government officials, should treat our colleagues in this manner.

Unfortunately, in recent years, it has become more and more common for state officials to label primarily professional journalists, and to mark them as members of political organizations, and often call them foreign mercenaries and domestic traitors.

We will certainly register all cases in the Database of Attacks and Pressures on Journalists as well as in our regional database SafeJournalists.net, and provide all necessary protection and assistance to our colleagues.

IJAS,

September 4 2021

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