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Serbia: A Journalist Is Attacked on a Public Bus

Teofil Pancic, a well-known journalist of the weekly magazine Vreme (“Time”), was beaten up on a public bus (route #83) in Zemun, one of Belgrade’s municipalities, on Saturday, July 24.

According to Vreme, Pancic was attacked by two men who beat him up with metal bars. He was admitted to a hospital where doctors treated him for injuries of his head and right arm. Fortunately, the injuries are not life-threatening. Vreme claims the attack had been planned:

This is one more attack on Vreme’s journalists, from kidnapping of Dusan Reljic to the planting of bombs in Dejan Anastasijevic’s flat, and the perpetrators have never been arrested and convicted.

Editorial staff of Vreme asks officials, the police and the prosecutor’s office to identify, arrest and bring criminal charges against the perpetrators of the attack on journalist Teofil Pancic.

On Pescanik, a web portal with a focus on Serbian and Balkan politics, human rights and other important issues, whose authors are often highly critical of the authorities, Pancic described how the assault happened and concluded:

Since I am not engaged in any illegal activities in my life, nor do I owe anyone anything, nor do I have any contacts with the underworld, I can only guess what the reason and the motive could be. It could be found in my public work and engagement. I can’t find any other possible reasons.

Blogger Loader believes that the reason for the assault is the same one as Pancic said. He wrote:

Attacks on journalists… that is not the only recent case. Can we say anything new about the topic? A punch at Pancic is a punch at all of us. Through Pancic’s case, the message was sent to us, telling us to be silent and to calmly accept the reality […]. Of course, we will not be silent.

Below are some of more than 200 commentaries on Loader’s post:

Man ray loves me:

This [incident] exceeded all bounds. I admire Teofil. I feel bad.

Libkonz:

It’s ghastly. We cannot allow that fascists win in this country.

Jelica Greganovic:

I don’t have any words. And the passengers, eyewitnesses… they are only watching? Did someone try to help him?

AlexDunja:

I understand the fear. But everyone has mobile phones… someone should have called the police and an ambulance…

Drago Kovacevic alluded to the violence in Belgrade’s streets in 2008, when Kosovo declared its independence:

This time they [the nationalists] don’t have a permission to attack embassies or mosques, but no one has forbidden them to attack Teofil. This is terrible. I think the police could find perpetrators if they wanted to.

masovna_keva replied to those commentators who think that Pancic would not be silent in the future:

Of course, he won’t be silent but it’s obvious that Serbia is returning to the 1990s, with just one difference that [Ivica Dacic, minister of the interior and president of the Socialist Party, once headed by Slobodan Milosevic] has to substantiate his own metamorphosis and maybe something will happen in regard to arresting [the attackers].

Human rights lawyer of the Civil Rights Defenders (former Swedish Helsinki Committee), NGO activist and blogger Goran Miletic published an article on Pescanik in which he analyzed possible scenarios after the newest case of violence in Belgrade:

Journalist and citizen Teofil Pancic has been beaten in a typically Serbian way. Two men boarded a bus in the center of free Zemun, walked up to the victim, who they had been following, and then moved to action in front of other passengers. […]

[…] I might bet that one of these three scenarios will happen:

1. the police will not find the attackers […]

2. the police will find the attackers very quickly, but the prosecutor’s office and (or) the court will be working unnecessarily slowly. […] In this case, we will be waiting too long for either the indictment or the start of the trial, and maybe for both. The cases of a female journalist [Brankica Stankovic], TV B92’s cameraman [Bosko Brankovic] and many others are a good illustration of how everything can appear and how long it can last, and without any reason.

3. the Police will arrest the attackers, the prosecutor’s office will indict them relatively quickly and then the “beating up” of Teofil will begin for the second time. For those who don’t know how this scenario works, let them to check the trial case of [Bris Taton’s death]. The formula is absolutely simple – decreasing the importance of each segment of the assault, which then leads to the conclusion that the version of the events described at indictment is contradictory. […]

Further, Miletic analyzes possible behavior of the attackers’ lawyers, their relatives as well as the public on the whole. He also guesses that the reaction of the majority of the media will not be adequate and professional. He concludes:

[…] A small number of the media outlets that will be reporting on everything in a professional manner will not be enough in order to send a clear message to the public, as there is no such message now, when the trial in the case of Bris Taton’s death is in progress. In the best intention, some media will start one more campaign for journalists to finally be treated as “official persons,” but this action will neither help to punish the perpetrators adequately, nor to avoid similar assaults be in the future.

Journalists’ associations, some state officials, political parties and citizens have also condemned the violent act and asked the authorities to react in a proper manner.

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