By Igor Spaic
Bosnian journalists and international organisations urged the authorities to address death threats sent to reporters who covered last week’s Hague Tribunal conviction of six Bosnian Croats and Slobodan Praljak’s suicide.
Bosnian news associations and international organisations have strongly condemned a series of death threats issued to journalists who reported on the verdict convicting six Bosnian Croats of war crimes and the suicide of one of them, Slobodan Praljak.
Since the moment Praljak drank poison in the courtroom at the Hague Tribunal after his conviction for crimes against humanity was upheld, some journalists who covered it and described Praljak as a war criminal have been targeted by nationalists in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia.
According to the Association of BH Journalists, numerous journalists have been threatened with death or rape via social media or email.
Among them are Sanel Kajan of Al Jazeera Balkans, Stefica Galic, the editor of the Tacno.net news site, Arijana Saracevic Helac, an editor at Bosnia’s Federation entity broadcaster, and Lejla Turcilo, a professor at the Faculty of Political Sciences in Sarajevo.
“You will not live long. I promise,” said one threat to Sanel Kajan on Facebook.
“Every threat, especially heavy categories in which one is threatened with violence and murder, is strongly punished in every developed country in Europe and in the world,” Kajan told BIRN.
“It is time to start punishing this type of violence in Bosnia and Herzegovina too, as well as in the countries of the region,” he said.
Kajan said that he received numerous threatening messages, which at first he ignored and blocked.
“Until I realised the seriousness of those threats. Minute by minute, the number of threats was rising,” he said.
He said those who sent the threats were also provoked by nationalist journalists who branded him a ‘Croat hater’ because he called the convicts war criminals.
“To call a convicted war criminal what he is – a convicted war criminal – is telling the truth,” Kajan pointed out, and added: “Those who don’t like it should not hold us responsible.”
Kajan lives in Mostar, the stronghold of Bosnian Croat nationalism in the country – which was the ‘capital’ of the wartime unrecognised Croat-led Herzeg-Bosnia statelet, of which the six convicted men were officials – and the threats mostly focused on his hometown.
“Just keep sharing those Al Jazeera stories. You will have to walk around Mostar,” stated one of them.
He was also called an “unchristened Satan”, told to move away because Mostar is a “Croat city”, and insulted for reporting negatively about the “hero” Praljak.
Kajan reported the threats to police and Ljudevit Maric, a spokesperson for the Herzegovina Neretva canton’s Interior Ministry, told N1 TV news on Monday that the authorities are working on identifying those who sent them.
The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Harlem Desir, also called on the authorities in Bosnia and Croatia on Tuesday to investigate the threats.
“Authorities have an obligation to ensure that journalists have safe working conditions, and that persons threatening them are prosecuted,” Desir said.
The managing board of the Association of BH Journalists condemned the “hysteria and the spreading of an atmosphere of fear through media and social media, as well as the almost organised outbursts of hate and brutal insults aimed at all those who raised their voice against embracing the crimes and the convicted Bosnian Croats”.
Kajan said that unless the authorities take action, “the message to professional journalists and those who threaten them is clear. To those who threaten: keep on threatening! To the journalists: shut up!”