Columnist beaten over the head with a metal bar

Reporters Without Borders is outraged by a brutal attack on well-known Serbian journalist Teofil Pančić, a columnist for the weekly Vreme (Time). A frequent critic of nationalistic excesses, corruption and hooliganism in sport, Pančić, was beaten with a metal bar by unidentified assailants in Belgrade on the night of 24 July.He was hospitalised with contusions to the head and an arm but has since been released.

Teofil Pančić

“We are shocked by the violence and barbarity of this attack on one of the country’s most respected journalists.We urge the authorities to pursue the investigation until both the perpetrators and instigators are arrested. This attack is an opportunity to demonstrate the efficacy of recent amendments to the criminal code that are supposed to ensure greater safety for journalists , Reporters Without Borders said.

Brankika Stankovic

“The judicial system must end the impunity that has prevailed until now for those responsible for this kind of attack. The attempted murder of Dejan Anastasijevic, another Vreme journalist, on 13 April 2007 also caused a stir, and prompted signs of a response from the authorities. But the investigation went nowhere. Let us not forget that a judge rejected the complaint filed by Brankika Stankovic of radio and TV broadcaster B92 over the death threats she received following the broadcast of several documentaries about corruption in Serbian football. The judge’s insistence on treating the threats as just insults or defamation was unacceptable.

“Investigative reporting about sports has over the years become as risky as investigative reporting about organised crime or the war crimes committed in the 1990s. Ultranationalists and criminal groups are poisoning a major part of the world of sport and the journalists who cover this phenomenon are exposed to especially violent reprisals that almost always go unpunished. If Serbia wants to join the European Union, an effort must be to prosecute those responsible for these threats and impose punishments that commensurate with the crimes committed.”