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Nearly 200 journalists gathered in Sarajevo on August 28. Similar rallies were reportedly held in Zenica and Mostar.

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.

With reporting by AP
Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) and Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov (file photo)

Human rights groups have urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to condemn recent threats made by Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov against activists and families of alleged insurgents in the North Caucasus region.

In a joint open letter on August 28, Human Rights Watch (HRW), Amnesty International, and Front Line Defenders wrote that Kadyrov should not be permitted to carry out "unlawful threats against human rights defenders and families and relatives of any suspects."

The groups called on Putin to take all necessary steps within his authority to "ensure that statements and actions that contravene Russian law and Russia’s international obligations have legal consequences prescribed in law."

The Russian president should also ensure the immediate release of Oyub Titiyev, the head of Memorial's branch in Chechnya who has been behind bars for nearly eight months "in retaliation for his human rights work," they also said.

On August 20, a group of Chechen youth attacked local police officials, reportedly killing one and wounding three.

Kadyrov later pledged to carry out collective punishment on relatives of the attackers and made threats against human rights defenders.

"I’m officially telling human rights defenders, once the court delivers its ruling [in Titiyev's case], Chechnya will be a forbidden territory for them, like for terrorists," the Kremlin-backed head of Chechnya said in a video address to law enforcement officers.

Titiyev’s trial has been ongoing since July under the scrutiny of Russian and international rights groups.

"The evidence suggests that the Kremlin had instructed Kadyrov to allow human rights defenders to travel freely in Chechnya" during Titiyev's trial, Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at HRW, said in a statement.

"That means the Kremlin can also make it clear to Kadyrov that human rights defenders should be able to work in Chechnya anytime, and safely," Williamson added.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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