Bosnian journalists demanded justice after a reporter was severely beaten by unknown attackers after covering politically sensitive protests.
On Monday, the United States 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 Republika Srpska.
On Sunday night he posted a photo on Twitter of his bloodied face and bandaged head.
“Twenty minutes ago while I was coming back from work, two young men jumped out and beat me with rods,” said Kovacevic, who was hospitalised in Banja Luka, the administrative capital of Republika Srpska.
The two attackers “clearly knew where I lived … when I passed by them they began to beat me brutally”, he wrote on Twitter.
The incident sparked an outcry among local media, who reported many people gathered in Banja Luka on Monday to protest the assault.
“One of us has been attacked,” said 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 he feared more trouble for Bosnian journalists in the run-up to October 7 elections.
Harlem Desir, a media representative for the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, 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 said.
Symbol of corruption
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 suspicious death has become a symbol of government corruption and injustice with protesters accusing authorities of a cover-up.
In March, Dragicevic’s body was found in a creek in downtown Banja Luka. Police said he drowned and had alcohol and drugs in his body.
In June, an inquiry board concluded there was ample evidence that Dragicevic was murdered and the public prosecutor should immediately respond to those findings. But parliament rejected the conclusions, although it said prosecutors in the case had made numerous errors.
The demonstrations for Dragicevic – held daily since March – have become the leading political issue in Bosnia’s Serb-run entity as elections near.