A paintball club in Bosnia-Hercegovina says it will sue a television network after reports claimed it was a paramilitary unit that was being illegally formed by the country’s presidency member Bakir Izetbegovic.
The battle erupted after the Belgrade-based daily Vecernje Novosti reported on November 25 that Izetbegovic had illegally trained more than 9,000 Bosniaks.
ATV television in Banja Luka, which is located in Republika Srpska, then broadcast a story based on the report showing pictures of the militia that it said it obtained exclusively.
The photos show several men dressed in army fatigues and with camouflage makeup toting weapons -- weapons the club says are air guns that shoot soft balls of paint.
Airsoft Club "Crna Munja," or Black Lightning, called the reports "abominable lies and fabrications" that were made without any attempts by the news organizations to contact them to verify the club’s activities.
"Given this, and the fact that our club is the largest and most famous airsoft club in Bosnia-Herzegovina, we think that journalists from this television did not accidentally publish the controversial article, but that behind the whole story there are many more factors aimed at creating fear and panic among BiH citizens," the club said in a statement.
"Our club has already reported the mentioned television station to RAK [the Bosnian Communications Regulatory Agency], where we introduced them to the controversial attachment. We will not stop at that, and we are preparing a comprehensive lawsuit on a number of grounds, primarily libel and violating reputation, and inflicting economic damage on our club," it added.
Bosnia has been wracked by internal tensions among Bosniaks -- the Bosnian Muslim population -- ethnic Croats, and ethnic Serbs.
It was a part of Yugoslavia until the breakup of the communist country in the early 1990s. It declared independence in March 1992, leading to a civil war between its Muslim, Croatian, and Serbian populations.
'There Will Never Be A Problem'
The war, which ended following international intervention in December 1995, resulted in the death of an estimated 100,000 people and the displacement of some 2.6 million more.
In the report, ATV asked Izetbegovic if he was forming a paramilitary unit, which he neither confirmed nor denied, adding that "there will never be a problem from us."
The Bosnia State Investigation and Protection Agency said it does not have any "knowledge of the formation of a parallel/secret military system in the country that is allegedly being coordinated under a member of the Bosnian Presidency."
According to the club's Facebook page, it is a "non-profit, nongovernmental organization which promotes airsoft (paintball) as a sport."
Since the Bosnian war ended in 1995, Bosnia has been split into two entities -- Republika Srpska and the Muslim-Croat Federation of Bosniaks and Croats.
The two entities are linked by joint state-level institutions, including a tripartite presidency that must reach consensus before decisions can be made.