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.
Prije 20 minuta su me dok sam se vraćao sa posla dva momka zaskočila i namlatila šipkama na razvlačenje. pic.twitter.com/qEllwPvAvn— Vladimir Kovacevic (@corbapas) August 26, 2018
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.
Recent physical attacks against journalists @corbapas, @klixba, @AJBalkans, @MultimedijaBHRT are unacceptable. We strongly defend the right of journalists to report the news without fear of reprisal. When journalists are silenced, society suffers. #ProtectJournalists #EndImpunity— US Embassy Sarajevo (@USEmbassySJJ) August 27, 2018
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."