Banja Luka journalist brutally beaten

Banja Luka journalist brutally beaten

BNTV correspondent for Banja Luka, journalist Vladimir Kovačević, was brutally beaten on Sunday night near the building where he lives with his family in Banja Luka.

As Kovačević told to this Bijeljina based TV station owner, Vlado Trišić, he was on his way home after work and he was approaching the building entrance.

“I passed two younger guys and nothing was suspicious. Suddenly, they came near me, one from the back and second on my side and started to beat me with metal rods”, Kovačević said.

He called for help but the attackers continue to hit him on the head. Kovačević said that these guys could have killed him, but he tried to defend himself and protect the head with hands. After the attack the perpetrators fled the crime scene by car and Kovačević was transported to hospital.

A large number of institutions and politicians sent public messages that violence against journalists cannot be tolerated and that the police must find the perpetrators as soon as possible. What’s more, the journalist associations condemned the attack. BH Journalists Association said that the attack on Kovačević was planned and well organized.

“The Managing Board of “BH journalists” resolutely demands from the RS Ministry of Interior an urgent and professional investigation of the attack on journalist Vladimir Kovačević. If the Ministry fails to inform the public about all the circumstances of the attack, including the names of the attackers and those behind them, in the shortest period of time but not exceeding 5 days, we will consider the highest officials and institutions of Republika Srpska directly responsible for this criminal act, and call journalists from all over BiH on protests and a boycott of all the activities of the ruling coalition in RS”, reads the press release.

BNTV is a television station that does not belong to “state media” and publish mostly RS opposition parties’ news. The journalists of this station are in permanent tensions with RS ruling coalition and opposition leaders are regular guests on this TV station. The public considers them as “opposition speakers” and the place where is possible to hear different viewpoints than those served by ruling parties on several other television stations, financed or owned by the Government and its supporters. Kovačević mostly covered political issues and the protest of Banja Luka citizens regarding the unsolved death of 21 year-old David Dragičević. Since Dragičević was found dead in March this year, his father and dozens of citizens every day hold peaceful demonstrations on the main Banja Luka Square. Kovačević on Sunday afternoon was at the Square, made the report for BNTV and went home. The attack occurred when he approached the building.

The attack was also condemned by RS president Milorad Dodik, but a large part of the journalist community consider him for the main obstacle to free and fair journalism in the entity. In last few months, on several occasions Dodik has marked journalists as “public enemies”, calling them spies, enemies, “Republika Srpska destroyers”, accusing media that they are “servants of foreign politicians who want to abolish RS and exterminate the Serbs”. The list is very long and is not finished yet, since BiH General Elections are in just a couple of months and this is the time when ruling coalition intensify the rhetoric against “enemies of RS”, including opposition media.

Chief of the BNTV office in Banja Luka, Željko Raljić, told the media after the urgent session of the “BH Journalist” Association Banja Luka branch, that Dodik visited Kovačević in the hospital and that the BNTV is grateful on that.

“But, we will be more grateful when Dodik stops targeting journalists. He is in a position to break the “atmosphere of the fear”. Kovačević was just doing his job”, stressed Raljić.

Many journalists gathered in the front of the RS Presidential building, where Dodik’s office is, to protest against the latest incident.

According to journalist associations in BiH, this was the 41st attack on media employees, this year alone. This number includes nine physical attacks, five death threats, 14 cases of verbal threats and political pressures, an important number of labour disputes and mobbing, defamation, denial of information etc./IBNA