The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) has accused Serbian state-affiliated media of waging a smear campaign against anti-corruption investigative reporter Stevan Dojcinovic.
OCCRP, an investigative reporting organization which specializes in organized crime and corruption, said in a statement on March 10 that Dojcinovic has been subjected to a "mounting assault" by Serbian tabloid news outlets by linking him to a notorious Montenegro-based crime gang.
Dojcinovic is both an OCCRP regional editor and the editor in chief of the Crime and Corruption Investigations Network (KRIK), a major Serbian news outlet.
KRIK has published stories on how the Montenegrin crime gang, known as Kavac, used to be aligned with the government and how Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic's son regularly socialized with top gang members.
Following the disclosures by KRIK, state-affiliated Serbian tabloids released a coordinated series of articles alleging that Dojcinovic worked for the mob figure Veljko Belivuk, a prominent Kavac member charged with several murders, OCCRP said in the statement.
"These stories are really worrisome because they put KRIK staff 'in the game,'" said OCCRP Publisher Drew Sullivan.
"By accusing our colleagues of being part of the Kavac gang's criminal activities, these pro-state tabloids are providing criminal groups with justification for murder. We hold [Serbian President Aleksandar] Vucic himself responsible for the blatantly false accusations peddled by his mouthpieces, which have real-world ramifications for our journalists."
Dojcinovic has been subjected to harassment in the past. In December, he was banned from entering the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.), where he was planning to attend a UN conference on organized crime and corruption.
Dojcinovic told RFERL at the time that he had "no information" as to why he was deported after being held for 12 hours at the airport’s police station.
"They took my fingerprints. I tried to talk to them. They told me they were not to blame, that I was blacklisted and couldn't get into the U.A.E., and that they would send me back by plane. Later, they told me that the U.A.E. had not blacklisted me, but some other country, some other government. They said 'it's something international' but they didn't want to reveal more details to me," he said.
In 2015, Russian authorities stopped Dojcinovic on arrival at a Moscow airport and sent him back, along with a five-year entry ban, all without any explanation.
Investigative Journalism Group Accuses Serbian State Media Of Campaign Against Reporter