Berlin, June 14, 2018–The Committee to Protect Journalists today called on authorities in Vojvodina, the northern province of Serbia, to take all necessary measures to locate Stefan Cvetković, a prominent freelance journalist who went missing last night, according to local news reports.
The car used by Cvetković, which belonged to his father, was found parked with the doors open and the engine and lights on in a street in the Vojvodinan town of Bela Crkva, Serbian newspaper Blic reported. Quoting witnesses, the Belgrade-based Beta news agency said that the journalist`s watch was found with the band broken next to the car. His known mobile phones were turned off, the agency said after trying to reach the journalist.
A statement by local police, quoted by Blic, said that an intense search was under way to locate the journalist. The Serbian Interior Ministry said that several dozen members of the special police along with search dogs, as well as two helicopters, have been deployed to find the missing journalist, regional news site Balkan Insight reported.
“We are extremely concerned for Stefan Cvetković and hold Serbian authorities responsible for his safe return,” said CPJ European Union Representative Tom Gibson in Brussels.
Cvetković was investigating the murder of Kosovo Serb politician Oliver Ivanović, who was assassinated in January in a drive-by shooting in North Mitrovica, Kosovo, according to Balkan Insight. Balkan Insight reported that Cvetkovic, during a February press conference, showed photos of individuals allegedly involved in the murder and said that the assassination cost 40,000 euros (US$46,500).
Cvetković has been subject of death threats, attacks, and legal action in the past. In 2007, he received two anonymous phone calls from an unidentified number when he was editor-in-chief of the independent radio-television station TNT in the city of Bela Crkva, CPJ reported. In 2008, he was attacked by an individual while having dinner in a restaurant in Bela Crkva. Cvetkovic said the attack was related to a past report aired on his TV station, the Vienna-based South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) reported. In 2015, unknown perpetrators destroyed his car, according to another report by SEEMO. According to Balkan Insight, Cvetković in March 2017 was sentenced to two years and three months in prison, after officials from Serbia’s governing Progressive Party filed complaints; the ruling was annulled by the High Court in the Serbian town of Pancevo in April 2018.