Berlin, May 9, 2022 – Serbian authorities should drop all criminal charges against journalists Sava Majstorov and Sara Mikić, and ensure that members of the press do not face legal retaliation over their work, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Monday.
On April 12, authorities charged Mikić and Majstorov, reporters with the local news website Soinfo in Sombor, northern Serbia, with organizing an illegal December 2021 protest and blocking roads, according to news reports, their employer, and both journalists, who communicated with CPJ via email.
Mikić and Majstorov told CPJ that they worked as journalists covering preparations for a protest against new laws encouraging lithium mining in the area, but did not organize or join the demonstration.
If convicted, the journalists could be fined 150,000 dinars (US$1,347), according to those news reports, which said their court hearing was scheduled for Monday, May 9, but was postponed at the request of the journalists’ lawyers.
“Serbian authorities should drop the criminal charges against journalists Sava Majstorov and Sara Mikić, and ensure that members of the press do not face legal harassment over their reporting,” said Attila Mong, CPJ’s Europe representative. “Reporting on demonstrations is clearly in the public interest, and authorities should stop pursuing journalists simply for doing their jobs.”
The reporters told CPJ that authorities have used articles published in Soinfo and videos of the journalists at the scene as evidence that they allegedly joined and organized the protest.
During the demonstration, 200 to 300 peaceful protesters blocked traffic in Sombor for about two hours, according to those news reports, which said that authorities have filed criminal charges against dozens of the protest’s participants.
CPJ emailed the Sombor prosecutor’s office for comment, but did not immediately receive a reply.