June 14, 2018

Concern about investigative reporter’s disappearance in Serbia

Stefan Cvetkovic © DR
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the Serbian and Kosovar authorities to shed all possible light on Serbian investigative journalist Stefan Cvetkovic’s disappearance yesterday near the town of Bela Crkva in northern Serbia.

Cvetkovic’s car was found last night with the motor running, the lights on and the driver’s door open, but without its driver. His colleagues and family have had no success in their attempts to locate him. According to some sources, the broken bracelet of his watch was found near the car.

Cvetkovic is well known for criticizing Serbian officials and filed a complaint in 2014 accusing several of embezzling public funds. The same year, he also publicly challenged three officials about their role in certain criminal cases.

He has had run-ins with several politicians and has repeatedly reported being threatened. The sensitive cases he has covered include last January’s murder of Kosovo Serb politician Oliver Ivanovic in Mitrovica, in northern Kosovo.

We stand alongside Serbia’s journalists at this difficult moment, and we call on the Serb and Kosovar authorities to do everything possible to shed light on Stefan Cvetkovic’s worrying disappearance as quickly as possible,” said Pauline Adès-Mével, the head of RSF’s EU-Balkans desk.

Ilir Gasi, the programme director of the Slavko Curuvija Foundation (named after a Serbian journalist murdered in 1999) and a member of the Permanent Work Group for Security of Journalists in Serbia, said he was worried about Cvetkovic’s disappearance.

As far as we can tell, many police forces have been sent there and I honestly hope that Stefan Cvetkovic is alive and well,” Gasi said. “It should be said, however, that the security situation of journalists in Serbia has worsened of late. The number of attacks being reported is growing but very few cases are being solved. The biggest ones, such as the killings of Slavko Curuvija, Milan Pantic, and Dada Vujasinovic, are still pending resolution.”

Cvetkovic was sentenced to two years and three months in prison in March 2017 on a charge of defaming three officials and “unauthorized publication of documents.” RSF issued a press release at the time, condemning the sentence as unfair and disproportionate.

Serbia is ranked 76th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2018 World Press Freedom Index after falling ten places as a result of the harassment, threats and attacks to which journalists have been exposed.