23 February 2011

Independent station threatened after airing show on mining abuses

Posters calling for the death of B92 were plastered around a town in Serbia last week, the day after the independent broadcaster aired a show reporting on irregularities at the local coal mine, report the Association of Independent Electronic Media (ANEM) and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

On a 14 February edition of the investigative "Insider" TV programme, B92 reported on alleged corruption at the state-owned Kolubara coal mine in Lazarevac. The following day, the town was covered with posters that announced the death of B92 from a "long and severe anti-Serbian illness" and stated that the organisers of its funeral would be the B92 editor-in-chief and those involved in producing the "Insider".

This is the second time that anti-B92 posters were put up in recent weeks - after an initial "Insider" report went out on the mine, posters appeared on 2 February.

"The kind of atmosphere that can lead to an entire city being covered with posters calling for violence against investigative journalists serves as an indicator of the increasingly difficult position of journalists and media outlets who dare to critically report on the most serious issues in Serbia," said ANEM. B92 believes witnesses who spoke openly about abuses in the mines may also be at risk.

OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatović also condemned the intimidation campaign. "Authors of the 'Insider' programme have been for a long time facing large-scale intimidation and attempts to silence their critical voices. This reaction to a TV programme, apart from being distasteful, is a serious attack on the democratic values of the country," she said.

B92 is no stranger to controversy. "Insider" reporters have previously been threatened by football hooligans after airing stories on leaders of football fan clubs. When Kosovo unilaterally declared its independence in February 2008, B92 was accused of having a pro-Western bias and being a traitor of Serbia.

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