Murder rate and crimes against journalists on rise

Veran Matic delivered a speech in Paris on UNESCO International Conference "News Organizations Standing Up for the Safety of Media Professionals"


Under the chairmanship of Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director-General, Jim Boumelha, President of the International Federation of Journalists, and Erik Bjerager, Vice-President of World Editors Forum, dozens of media representatives, representatives of news organizations and media experts had presented intimidating information on the growth of murder rate of journalists, and crimes against them, as well as on threats and new challenges for the safety of journalists and media workers.

Every discussion was based on the fact of widespread impunity for the crimes against journalists, as only 5% of the killings of journalists is resolved, while 95% is never resolved, while the perpetrators and those who ordered the murders are not being prosecuted in court.

Veran Matic, Chairman of the Commission for investigating the killings of journalists, has been presented as the fighter against impunity, who, apart from his journalistic work, got engaged into the continuous activity of resolving the murders of journalists in Serbia, disregarding his personal safety, as for more than five years, he is under 24/7 police protection. The example of successful work of the Commission for investigating the killings of journalists is unique when it comes to combating impunity and the presentation of the work of the Commission had attracted attention, comparing it with mainly unsuccessful and often individual attempts of resolving the killings.

The model of the work of the Commission has been presented as very suitable for being adapted in other states.

"It is very important for the media community to support or win political will for resolving the murders through making a model that would make a breakthrough when it comes to impunity on the national, regional or global level. Once winning political will, it is important for the journalists to be devoted actors of this process, to restrain from joint work with the investigative bodies, using their media position, media industry for promoting all activities pertaining to raising awareness of journalists’ vulnerability and securing the safety of media workers, as well as resolving all unresolved cases of violence against journalists.
The role of journalists and media is very important and had to be intense and ongoing, which usually is not the case. Media had to use all their huge capacities to create atmosphere and to exert relevant pressure on the institutions to accept the models that would lead to solving the cases of killings of journalists, no matter how painful are the results for both the state and the institutions, as ultimately, with reaching justice, we build institutions and rule of law. "

It has been underlined that representatives of the Serbian Commission for investigating the killings of journalists assist other similar bodies such as Commission in Montenegro, but they also create international campaigns fighting crimes against journalists in cooperation with the OSCE Representative Office for Media Freedom, that are available to be adapted in all the states willing to use it."

Matic had presented Commission’s achievements:

- Court proceedings of those indicted for the murder of Slavko Curuvija is underway, hoping that it will be speed up, meaning that the sessions that include witnesses’ testimonies will be held regularly and more often compared to the current practice.
- Investigation in the case of killing journalist Milan Pantic is very intensive, comprising the work of seven investigators, which is unprecedented so far that in such long period of time, such large number of investigators is devoted to a single case.
- As for Radoslava Dada Vujasinovic’s case, results of the super expertise performed by the Netherlands National Forensic Institute from Hague has been expected.
- The case of killing RTS media staffers is hindered due to the fact that NATO is not willing to offer basic information on who and based on what arguments gave orders to commence air raids on a media house which was unprecedented. We had prepared an agenda of gathering data from local actors on how it happened that the obligation of evacuating the building when the air raid commenced failed to be performed.

"It is crucial that we build state institutions on the national level with high authority that can thoroughly work on the prevention of violence against journalists, including immediate reactions of the Prosecutor’s Office and the police in case of threats, and all other actors that should reveal every single threat and pursue the perpetrators, that would raise awareness on the position of journalists and the necessity of achieving stronger safety for journalists and media workers, as the time and technologies bring new challenges on daily basis, when it comes to the numerous possibilities for the journalists to be threatened“, Matic stated.

He had also supported the initiative of the Reporters Without Borders to establish the institution of Special Rapporteur for the Safety of Journalists under the office of UN Secretary General with strong authorities, as well as creating a range of binding decisions that the states have to apply, in order to successfully resolve the cases of impunity, in the same time securing conditions for the safe work of journalists.

"We have to do everything in our power to resolve all the cases of journalists’ killings; if it is not possible due to time lapse or any other reason, then it is at least possible to explain why no progress was made, introducing the public with all the facts pertaining to obstruction of investigations; if this is not possible either, then we cannot allow for the cases of our killed colleagues to be forgotten, as the media are capable of doing that, of constantly reminding the public of the crimes and the fact that the murderers and those who ordered the murders are still at large”, Matic concluded.

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