Berlin, May 3, 2022 — Serbian authorities should conduct a swift and thorough investigation into threats made to journalist Dinko Gruhonjić and his family, and ensure their safety, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Tuesday.
On April 25, a Facebook user named “Ante Pavlovic” sent a number of threatening messages to Gruhonjić, deputy editor-in-chief of the Autonomija news website and a freelance contributor to other regional outlets, according to news reports and the journalist, who communicated with CPJ via email and shared screenshots of the threats.
In the messages, Pavlovic called Gruhonjić a “traitor” and threatened to kill and sexually assault the journalist, his wife, and his children. Pavlovic also repeatedly called Gruhonjić, but the journalist said he did not answer.
Gruhonjić, who is based in the northern Serbian province of Vojvodina, said he thought the “Ante Pavlovic” account was fake, as it only had one photo and did not seem to have any friends. CPJ messaged the account but did not receive any reply.
Gruhonjić reported the threats to the Belgrade prosecutor’s office, which notified him that it had opened an investigation. The office confirmed to CPJ in an email that it was looking into the threats.
“It is a welcome development that Serbian authorities are investigating the threats received by journalist Dinko Gruhonjić. Those responsible should be swiftly held to account, and the journalist and his family must be protected,” said Attila Mong, CPJ’s Europe representative. “Serbian authorities must show that it is completely unacceptable to threaten journalists with violence and death over their coverage.”
Gruhonjić said the threats did not specifically mention his reporting, and showed a knowledge of his family background. He said they were probably in response to an article he published the previous day on the Croatian news website Lupiga, criticizing Serbia’s policies towards Russia and the Russia-Ukraine war.
Gruhonjić told CPJ that he regularly receives insults and threats from “nationalistic extremists” after covering sensitive topics.
“I’m one of the very rare journalists in Serbia who persistently criticize Serbian nationalism,” he added. He told CPJ that he consistently reported such threats to authorities, but said the cases all remained unresolved.
Gruhonjić also works as the program director of the Independent Journalists’ Association of Vojvodina, an independent local trade group, he told CPJ.
Previously, in November 2020, unidentified people painted insulting graffiti on Gruhonjić’s house, prompting him to install security cameras, according to news reports and the journalist.