Berlin, May 24, 2022 — Bosnia and Herzegovina authorities should swiftly and thoroughly investigate death threats made against columnist Srđan Puhalo and ensure his safety, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Tuesday.
On May 6, Puhalo, a regular columnist for news website Frontal, received numerous online insults, threats of physical violence, and death threats following an opinion piece he published on media trade website Analiziraj, according to reports by Safejournalists.net, a regional news site tracking violence against journalists, and Sarajevo Times, as well as Puhalo, who corresponded with CPJ via email.
Puhalo’s opinion piece, in which he discussed the controversy over official estimates of the number of children killed in the siege of Sarajevo during the Yugoslav Wars in the 1990s, provoked a strong reaction on social media, with Puhalo receiving dozens of insults and threats in comments and direct messages, according to these reports. According to Puhalo and CPJ’s review of screenshots of the Facebook messages, there were threats of physical violence, including of being “tortured” and “beaten,” and death threats. Five of the threatening messages came from three accounts, according to CPJ’s review.
“These threats made against columnist Srđan Puhalo are extremely chilling, and authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina must take them seriously, especially when they came from social media accounts whose owners could obviously be traced,” said Attila Mong, CPJ’s Europe representative. “Threatening a journalist because of his opinion is completely unacceptable, and authorities must take every possible measure to ensure Puhalo’s safety.”
Puhalo told CPJ that he filed a complaint with police in Banja Luka, where he lives, after the threats and is awaiting news of the investigation.
CPJ emailed questions to the press department of the police administration in Banja Luka, but did not receive an immediate reply.
CPJ also sent direct messages to the Facebook accounts that made the threats, but did not receive any immediate replies.