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Reporters from multiple news outlets protest in Sarajevo on September 30 after a group of hooligans attacked the editorial board of Radio Sarajevo on September 27.
Reporters from multiple news outlets protest in Sarajevo on September 30 after a group of hooligans attacked the editorial board of Radio Sarajevo on September 27.

SARAJEVO -- Dozens of journalists have marched through Bosnia-Herzegovina's capital to protest violence against media workers, after suspected soccer fans broke into a radio station in Sarajevo and forced staff to withdraw a news item from its website.

Some 100 protesters gathered on September 30 outside the offices of the FK Sarajevo soccer club and then marched through the city center, demanding better protection and tougher penalties for attacks on the press.

Being a journalist in Bosnia is "very hard" and "is getting harder every year," said Faruk Vele, a member of the editorial board of the news portal.

Vele said the country's institutions were failing to protect journalists from attacks.

Police have detained two people over the September 27 incident when assailants who said they were soccer fans threatened the staff of Radio Sarajevo until they removed the news that a Sarajevo fan had received five years in prison in Belarus for cocaine possession.

Describing the incident as "an actual hostage situation," Radio Sarajevo said that faced with death threats, the editor was forced to remove the news item.

FK Sarajevo has condemned the incident.

In a joint statement on September 30, the OSCE representative on freedom of the media, Harlem Desir, and the head of the OSCE mission to Bosnia, Kathleen Kavalec, called on the authorities to better protect journalists.

"Safety of journalists is one of the most important prerequisites of media freedom, which is a key pillar of our democratic systems," Desir said.

Kavalec pointed out that the number of attacks on journalists so far this year "seems to have reached an alarming level."

Earlier, the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo said the "outrageous attack" on Radio Sarajevo was "unacceptable,"

"We strongly defend the right of journalists to report the news without the fear of reprisal. When journalists are silenced, society suffers," it tweeted.

Bosnia is ranked in 63rd out of 180 countries in the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders' 2019 World Press Freedom Index.

With reporting by AP and AFP
Russian actor Pavel Ustinov leaves court after his hearing in Moscow on September 30.
Russian actor Pavel Ustinov leaves court after his hearing in Moscow on September 30.

MOSCOW -- The Moscow City Court has reduced actor Pavel Ustinov’s 3 1/2-year prison sentence to a one-year suspended sentence amid an outcry over punishments being handed out after a series of pro-democracy rallies over the summer.

The court also ruled on September 30 that Ustinov will be put on a two-year probation period.

Ustinov and his lawyer had asked the court to fully acquit the actor, saying his previous conviction for assaulting a law enforcement officer during a rally in August was unjust.

Following the ruling, Ustinov told Current Time that he will continue to fight for vindication.

"I'm ready to go through all the stages," he said, "all the stages of Russia's legal proceedings and then to the [European Court of Human Rights]. I'm ready."

The 23-year-old, who once worked as a National Guard officer, pleaded not guilty, saying he was standing nearby and was not participating in the rally at which activists challenged the refusal by officials to register opposition and independent candidates for Moscow city-council elections that took place on September 8.

Video of Ustinov's arrest appears to back up his claims, but the court refused to admit them as evidence.

Ustinov's imprisonment and harsh sentence sparked an outcry among the entertainment community, as well as from teachers, priests, and even some members of the Moscow city council.

Police and legal officials have been sharply criticized for their heavy-handed tactics during and after the protests, which drew some of the biggest crowds since demonstrations against election manipulation in 2011 and 2012.

Thousands of people were detained, and at least seven have been given prison terms in connection with the protests. Critics say the convictions have been overly harsh and an overt attempt to scare off others from joining the protests.

Ustinov credited the public outpouring for prompting the authorities to reduce his sentence and pledged to continue pushing to help the others who have been convicted.

"I have to support those guys," he told Current Time, "because they supported me. I can't stay away. The whole country stood up [for me], and now I am just sitting at home? No, that won't work."

Prosecutors appeared to acknowledge the unjust situation, noting at the start of the appeal hearing on September 26 that Ustinov's sentence was "too severe" and "the convict's reformation is possible without his isolation from society."

On September 20, amid protests challenging his conviction, Ustinov was released from custody by a court and ordered not to leave Moscow before his appeal was ruled upon.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.


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