Berlin, July 28, 2022 – Authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina should swiftly and thoroughly investigate death threats sent to journalists at the independent news website eTrafika and ensure their safety, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Thursday.
Starting in May, Siniša Golub, a man who was previously the subject of eTrafika’s reporting, sent threats of death and physical violence to journalists at the outlet, according to reports by eTrafika and SafeJournalists, a regional news website that tracks violence against journalists, as well as eTrafika managing editor Vanja Stokić, who communicated with CPJ via email.
In 2018, eTrafika published an article alleging that Golub had operated on a dog in an illegal clinic without proper veterinarian credentials.
From May 4 to July 13, Golub sent seven messages to eTrafika’s official Facebook page, requesting the outlet take that article down, warning its journalists that he knew the location of eTrafika’s headquarters, and saying there would be “bloodshed”, according to Stokić and screenshots reviewed by CPJ.
On July 20, the prosecutor’s office in the northwestern city of Banja Luka, where eTrafika is headquartered, refused to open a criminal investigation because Golub sent the messages to the outlet’s institutional page, instead of to individual journalists, according to Stokić and SafeJournalists. However, following a July 21 statement by local press freedom groups lead by the BH Journalists Association and Free Media Helpline calling on authorities to act, the office opened a criminal investigation on July 22, Stokić told CPJ.
“While we welcome the news that authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina are taking the death threats against journalists working for the news website eTrafika seriously, it is troubling that they needed to be pressured into opening an investigation,” said Attila Mong, CPJ’s Europe representative. “Authorities must ensure that journalists at the outlet can work safely, and show that repeated and increasingly violent threats to members of the press for doing their jobs will not go unpunished, especially when the perpetrator openly reveals himself.”
In that 2018 article, Golub told eTrafika that he had helped an injured dog and said he had graduated from veterinary school, although he admitted that he was not accredited as a veterinarian in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
In December 2021, Golub emailed eTrafika and asked them to remove the article as the reporting was false, Stokić told CPJ, adding that eTrafika refused his request and stood by its reporting, and did not hear from him again until May 2022.
“He might want to remove the article so that it would not appear in searches for his name,” Stokić said.
CPJ’s Facebook message to Golub and email to the Banja Luka prosecutor’s office did not receive any replies.
[Editors’ note: This article has been updated in its fifth paragraph to add further details about the July 21 statement by local press freedom groups.]