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Serbia10 November 2008

Regional newspaper and its editor given police protection

Vukasin Obradovic, the owner and editor of Novine Vranjske, a regional weekly based in the southeastern city of Vranje, has been placed under police protection following renewed anonymous threats against himself and his family. The police are also protecting his home and the newspaper’s office.

The newspaper thinks the threats could have been prompted by its reporting on links between local politicians and criminal groups. Founded in 1994, Novine Vranjske is one of the very few independent news media in southern Serbia that dares to tackle this kind of subject.

“We would like to express our complete solidarity with Obradovic, his family and the staff of Novine Vranjske,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Criminal groups often target journalists in a number of European Union countries or countries that hope to join the EU. It is essential to support journalists and media that dare to question organised crime’s influence over the machinery of state or else impunity will just make it stronger.”

Novine Vranjske was previously the target of a wave of threats in 2003, after it ran a serious of articles in January of that year about Bishop Pahomije, the leader of the Serbian Orthodox church in Vranje, and allegations that he had sexually abused children.

On 3 March 2003, the newspaper received a letter signed by hitherto unknown radical groups calling themselves the “Serb Liberation Movement” and “Serb Liberation Front” in which they threatened to eliminate Obradovic, Goran Antic (one of his reporters) and their families, and to destroy the newspaper’s office.

Obradovic’s car was vandalised on 19 April 2003, the day that a prosecutor announced that the bishop would be prosecuted. The entrance and windows of the Novine Vranjske were vandalised on 18 May 2003.

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