Berlin, February 6, 2019–Serbian authorities should thoroughly investigate a death threat made against staff at the privately owned N1TV, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. The station received a letter on February 4 from someone threatening to kill its journalists and their families, and to blow up its office, N1TV reported.
The letter was signed “Belgrade Veterans of the 1999 war,” which is a Serbian war veteran association, N1TV reported. The association’s president denied involvement. Police yesterday arrested a person suspected of sending the letter, according to reports.
N1TV’s executive producer Igor Bozic told Balkan Insight that the threatening letter came the same day that President Aleksandar Vučić described the station as anti-government. Balkan Insight reported that earlier on February 4, Vučić told the privately owned channel Happy TV that “authorities are being attacked by N1 television 24 hours a day, seven days a week, as well as by many weekly newspapers and other media.”
The president’s press office did not immediately respond to CPJ’s email requesting comment.
“We welcome the quick response from the Serbian police and call on them to fully investigate the threat,” said CPJ Europe and Central Asia Coordinator Gulnoza Said in New York. “Government officials should be cognizant of the consequences hostile rhetoric can have on the press.”
N1TV, which is part of Adria News, a regional network of privately owned news broadcasters in Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia Hercegovina, regularly covers anti-government protests in Serbia. N1TV is also a CNN affiliate.
Bozic said that the station’s journalists are often targeted as “traitors” and “anti-Serbs” online, often after anti-media statements by state officials and ruling party politicians, according to reports.
The Interior Ministry press office did not immediately respond to CPJ’s emailed questions on the police investigation.
State Secretary of the Ministry of Culture and Information Aleksandar Gajovic condemned the threat to N1TV and said that “it is an intolerable intimidation of media representatives and their families for doing their job,” according to reports.
In response to recent remarks and hostility to the press Zeljko Bodrozic, vice-president of the Western Balkans’ regional platform for advocating media freedom and journalists’ safety, a network of journalist unions and associations, said in a statement emailed to CPJ that such public statements by the state officials encourage threats and attacks on journalists.