A number of MPs from Serbia’s ruling Progressive Party have spoken out in support of attacks on reporters during the presidential swearing in of Aleksandar Vučić on 31 May.
Incidents included a journalist from the daily newspaper Danas, Lidija Valtner, being attacked during filming, while a Radio Belgrade reporter was pushed and had her audio recorder broken when attempting to speak to a group of men during a scuffle near parliament. In addition, police insisted on verifying the IDs of of reporters from BIRN, Insajder and VICE after they filmed a group of supporters of Mr Vučić ripping up a banner carried by protesters.
On Tuesday, Progressive Party MP Vladimir Đukanović voiced on Twitter his “full support for the guys” who removed those who “came to provoke” from a celebratory rally held by Progressive Party supporters, while MP Marijan Rističević tweeted that anyone who prevented violence at the rally and got rid of provocateurs should be “awarded as guardians of the public peace and as fighters against violence”.
Liberal newspaper Danas also came under fire for publishing photos of the scuffles, with MP Aleksandar Martinović accusing the paper of acting as “both court and prosecution”.
While, according to a report by Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, Mr Vučić apologised to those who were attacked, he also lay blame for the incidents at the feet of those “who came to provoke”. All opposition parties have condemned the attacks, in addition to a number of NGOs.
Such incidents form part of a trend present across the Balkan region. A recent report published by watchdog Freedom House suggests that media freedom is in decline in the Balkans, in part due to a rise in violence against journalists.
Source: Balkan Insight