Politician allegedly attacks journalist during interview

New York, June 5, 2003—According to 24-year-old free-lancer Vladimir Jesic, the mayor of the central city of Cacak attacked him during an interview on TV Apolo on Sunday, June 1, in the capital, Belgrade.

Mayor Velimir Ilic, who also heads the New Serbia party, became angry when Jesic asked him if he is related to Strahinja Ilic, who had been detained by the government in the mass arrests that followed the March 12 assassination of Serbian prime minister Zoran Djinidjic. In a telephone interview, the journalist told CPJ that Ilic kicked him in the knee, told him to shut up, and began cursing and threatening him while he walked out on the interview at the New Serbia office in Belgrade.

Ilic told CPJ in a telephone interview today that Jesic’s interview was a “provocation” and said he only kicked the folder on the journalist’s lap.

The entire incident was recorded on videotape, which the station broadcast on June 3. Stills of the videotape obtained by CPJ show Ilic kicking at the journalist, but it is unclear whether he hit the journalist in the knee or knocked his folder. [CLICK HERE TO SEE PHOTOS.]

TV Apolo, a station run by the local administration in the northern Serbian city of Novi Sad, held a press conference on Monday, June 2, announcing that it had filed a lawsuit against Ilic and calling on the media to boycott reporting on Ilic’s future activities, according to local press reports. No charges have been filed against the politician.

In December 2001, Dragan Novakovic, a journalist for the Belgrade weekly Nedeljni Telegraf, alleged that Ilic assaulted him in the lobby of the Intercontinental Hotel because of an article Novakovic had written linking Ilic to cigarette smuggling, according to local press reports.