RSF: Solving journalist murder key to media freedom; EU hopes for final verdict - Balkan Times

RSF: Solving journalist murder key to media freedom; EU hopes for final verdict

Pavol Salaj, the Reporters without Borders (RSF) representative for the European Union and Western Balkans, told N1 on Friday that the solving of the 1999 murder of Slavko Curuvija, Serbia's journalists and publisher, was crucial for media freedom because it would show the state was able to protect journalists.

RSF: Solving journalist murder key to media freedom; EU hopes for final verdict – Pavol Salaj, the Reporters without Borders (RSF) representative for the European Union and Western Balkans, told N1 on Friday that the solving of the 1999 murder of Slavko Curuvija, Serbia’s journalists and publisher, was crucial for media freedom because it would show the state was able to protect journalists.

After the first-instance verdict, the head of the Delegation of the European Union to Serbia, Emanuele Giaufret, said he hoped the legal process would be completed soon to end the 22-year-old case.

He added that „no crime must go unpunished; the safety of journalists is paramount.“

After seven years of legal processing and a retrial on Thursday, four state security service agents were found guilty of Curuvija’s murder 22 years after he was gunned down outside his home.

„We believe the Curuvija’s case shows the values that Serbia wants to adhere to – whether it wants to be on the side of those who protect the rule of law, democracy and freedom of the press, or of those who protect murderers,“ Salaj said.

Commenting on a suspicion that a man still at large had his passport extended during the previous democratic regime in Serbia, Salaj said that „it is true, it’s terrible.“

He said the killing of journalists was extreme censorship.

„Justice for Curuvija guarantees media freedom. For us, this verdict is fragile progress in that case. It was a lot of steps back; it was a lot of delays, but it is a good step forward, but not yet the end. We are waiting for a final verdict. And if there is an appeal procedure, it must happen as soon as possible. Jelena (Curuvija), Veran (Matic), Serbia’s journalists and the society cannot wait forever,“ he said.

Asked if he knew about another case that took over 20 years to get its epilogue, Salaj recalled several such cases in Europe, mainly in the Balkans.

„It is a media freedom cancer in the Balkans,“ he added.

He said, „it is important to understand that the murder did not happen out of nowhere,“ recalling that before he was killed, Curuvija was a victim of the campaign, demonised in the media, attacked verbally, politically, persecuted and under surveillance.

„These are all problems that journalists in Serbia and the Balkans face. The current atmosphere of media freedom in Serbia is reminiscent of what happened in the 1990s,“ Salaj warned.

Recalling that a similar thing happened with the murder of journalists in Malta and Slovakia, he added that there were warning signs in those cases before they were killed. But that was not a signal to the authorities to protect journalists.

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(The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect BalkanTimes editorial stance.)

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