Journalists in Bosnia-Herzegovina protested for a second day to express outrage after a reporter in the country’s predominantly Serb entity was badly beaten by unknown assailants.
Nearly 200 journalists on August 28 gathered in the center of Bosnia’s capital, Sarajevo, to demand an end to attacks on journalists in the Balkan country and to urge authorities to quickly find those responsible for the assault against Vladimir Kovacevic of the independent Bosnian Serb television station BNTV.
Similar rallies were reportedly held in Zenica and Mostar, a day after hundreds of people protested in downtown Banja Luka, the administrative center of Republika Srpska, where the August 26 attack took place.
Some television stations also aired a black-and-red message reading, "Stop violence against journalists in Bosnia!"
"The freedom of the press has been threatened since [the start of the Bosnian war in] 1992 and has never been improved,” said journalist Arijana Saracevic-Helac, who attended the protest on Sarajevo’s Susan Sontag Square.
Kovacevic was hospitalized after he said two men beat him with metal bars late on August 26 as he was coming home after reporting on an antigovernment protest in Banja Luka.
A photo posted on Kovacevic’s Twitter account showed his bloodied and bandaged head.
Prosecutors in Banja Luka said they were treating the case as attempted murder.
In an August 27 statement, the Bosnian journalists' association blamed Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik for leading a campaign against independent media, saying it made reporters "open targets" for attackers.
Dodik, parliament speaker Nedeljko Cubrilovic, and other politicians condemned the attack against Kovacevic.
"It is not true that a lynching atmosphere exists, and I reject that," Dodik said after visiting Kovacevic in hospital.
The brutal beating has also drawn international outrage, with the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo tweeting that attacks on journalists are "unacceptable."
Council of Europe commissioner for human rights Dunja Mijatovic called the assault "the latest of several alarming attacks against journalists and media actors” in Bosnia.
"The negative rhetoric being used against the media must end, in order to prevent further such attacks against journalists," said the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's (OSCE) media-freedom representative, Harlem Desir.