Serbian journalist Jeton Ismaili's family was recently threatened in a break-in after he published an article about COVID-19 infections. (Photo: Jeton Ismaili)

Serbian journalist Jeton Ismaili’s family threatened during break-in

Berlin, August 19, 2020 — Serbian authorities should swiftly and thoroughly investigate threats made to journalist Jeton Ismaili and his family, and ensure their safety, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

At about 2 p.m. on August 13, in Veliki Trnovac, southern Serbia, two men broke into Ismaili’s house and, finding only his wife and their three children home, shouted insults and death threats referring to the journalist and his family, and then fled, according to news reports and Ismaili, an editor for the Albanian-language news website FOLonline, who spoke to CPJ in a phone interview.

The journalist’s family reported the attack to police, who arrived shortly thereafter and helped Ismaili’s wife, who suffered psychological trauma in the incident, according to SafeJournalists, a regional site that tracks attacks on journalists.

Yesterday, authorities filed criminal charges against a 76-year-old man and his 38-year-old son in connection with the attack, but did not release their names, according to SafeJournalists.

“It is encouraging to see Serbian law enforcement responding quickly to the attack on journalist Jeton Ismaili and his family. Authorities must follow through on the case and ensure those responsible are held to account,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, in New York. “Threatening a journalist because of his coverage is completely unacceptable, and Serbian authorities must ensure the safety of Ismaili and his family.”

Ismaili told local news outlet Bujanovačke, where he also works as a contributor, that he assumed the attack was retaliation for an August 7 article he wrote about two COVID-19 related deaths and several infections within a local family, which did not mention the family by name.

CPJ emailed the Serbian Ministry of the Interior, which oversees the police, and the local police in Vranje, the nearest town to Veliki Trnovac, for comment, but did not receive any reply.