Brutal Beating Of Independent Bosnian Serb Journalist Sparks Outrage

A rally in Banja Luka on August 27 was organized to protest against an attack on Vladimir Kovacevic of the independent Bosnian Serb television station BNTV.

Several hundred people on August 27 gathered in the center of Banja Luka in Bosnia-Herzegovina’s predominantly Serb entity to protest against an attack on a reporter.

The demonstrators, who included journalists, opposition supporters, and activists, urged police to quickly find those responsible for the assault against Vladimir Kovacevic of the independent Bosnian Serb television station BNTV.

Kovacevic said two men beat him with metal bars late on August 26 as he was coming home after reporting from an antigovernment protest in Banja Luka, the administrative center of Republika Srpska.

"I tried to defend myself and cried for help as they beat me on the head and body," BNTV quoted him as saying. "Then they escaped in a car."

A photo posted on Kovacevic’s Twitter account showed his bloodied and bandaged head.

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BNTV started its program on August 27 with a blackened screen and message, reading, "Open protest over the attack on a BNTV journalist. We are asking Republika Srpska’s [police] to reveal the attackers."

In a 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.

The U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo tweeted that the attacks on journalists were "unacceptable."

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

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In a statement, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's (OSCE) media-freedom representative, Harlem Desir, said "the negative rhetoric being used against the media must end, in order to prevent further such attacks against journalists."

With reporting by AP and Balkan Insight