Berlin, March 22, 2023—Bosnia and Herzegovina authorities should swiftly and thoroughly investigate a recent attack on journalists covering a gathering of local LGBTQ activists, hold those responsible to account, and ensure that reporters can cover events of public interest safely, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Wednesday.
In the evening of March 18, a group of several dozen unidentified people, some of whom wore masks and other facial coverings, attacked a group of four journalists in the northwestern city of Banja Luka while they were leaving a meeting of a local group of LGBTQ activists, according to news reports, three of those journalists, who spoke to CPJ, and a report by SafeJournalists, a regional website tracking violence against the press.
The attackers used bottles and sticks to beat Vanja Stokić, editor-in-chief of the privately owned news website Etrafika.net; Etrafika reporter Melani Isović; Ajdin Kamber, a photographer on assignment for German broadcaster Deutsche Welle; and freelance journalist Vanja Šunjić, according to those sources. None of the journalists were seriously injured.
“Authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina should conduct a swift and thorough investigation into the recent attack on four journalists in Banja Luka and ensure the perpetrators are held to account,” said Attila Mong, CPJ’s Europe representative. “Authorities must do their utmost to ensure that reporters can cover events of public interest safely, and without fear that they will be harassed and attacked.”
Stokić, Kamber, and Isović told CPJ via email and messaging app that they were leaving the activists’ meeting when the group of attackers threw bottles at them, pushed them to the ground, and beat them with sticks and bottles. They ran through the city’s streets and escaped danger, the journalists said. Police were at the scene but did not intervene, they said.
The four journalists suffered minor injuries including scrapes and bruises and were treated in a local emergency room.
CPJ emailed the police and the prosecutor’s office in Banja Luka for comment but did not receive any replies.