Berlin, April 20, 2021 — Serbian authorities should conduct a swift and thorough investigation into the assault of radio host Daško Milinović and hold those responsible to account, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
On April 16, at about 6:45 a.m., two unidentified men pepper-sprayed Milinović while he was walking to work in the northern city of Novi Sad, and proceeded to knock him to the ground and beat him with metal rods, according to the journalist, who spoke with CPJ in a phone interview, and a report by the U.S. Congress-funded broadcaster Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
Milinović told CPJ that he saw the attackers approaching him and was able to protect his head during the assault, and only suffered minor injuries to his arm; he was treated in a local emergency room and then released.
Milinović hosts the daily internet radio talk show “Daško & Mlađa,” where he comments on local and national political issues; he told CPJ that he believed the attack may have been retaliation for his work.
In the afternoon of April 16, police arrested one suspect in the assault and were searching for the other, according to news reports. Internal Affairs Minister Aleksandar Vulin said that police had leads on who ordered the attack and were seeking their arrest, those reports said. CPJ emailed the Novi Sad police and the Interior Ministry for an update on the investigation, but did not immediately receive any replies.
“Serbian authorities should quickly and thoroughly investigate the assault of journalist Daško Milinović, and bring all those responsible to account,” said CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, Gulnoza Said, in New York. “It is welcome news that authorities identified the perpetrators and made one arrest. Police should maximize their efforts to fully investigate this assault, and hold to account both the attackers themselves and those who planned it.”
Milinović told CPJ that, on his talk show, “I often criticize the country’s extreme-right, the fascist scene, and I am sure I was targeted because of these commentaries.”
He said that he had not received any specific threats before the attack, but on April 14, two men had followed him in the street at about the same time in the morning that he was attacked two days later. He said he suspected those men could have been the same who later attacked him.
Speaking to journalists on April 16, Prime Minister Ana Brnabić said that the attack represented “a red line, which must not be crossed in a civilized society,” according to the RFE/RL report.