News media leaders say the explosion outside of a journalist's home was meant as retaliation for his investigative reports on corruption.
By Drazen Remikovic for Southeast European Times in Podgorica -- 16/08/13
Journalists and media experts are calling for a government response after an explosive device was detonated outside the home of a Montenegrin journalist. [Drazen Remikovic/SETimes]
Civic groups and media organisations are urging authorities to protect investigative journalists after an explosive device was detonated near the home of journalist Tufik Softic, who has reported on organised crime and corruption in northern Montenegro.
Softic, who was at home with his family when the August 11th blast occurred, lives in Berane, where he is a local correspondent for the daily newspaper Vijesti and also writes for the weekly Monitor. While no one was injured, Softic and other journalists have previously suffered beatings as a result of their crime and corruption coverage.
"This was not intimidation. Someone had much more serious intentions. At the time of the explosion I was with my wife and two daughters in the house. It's a real fortune that no one was hurt. My whole family is upset about this," Softic told SETimes.
Montnegrin journalists have been the target of violence and death threats in recent years, particularly when they report about corruption.
"We are confident that the bomb that exploded in front of [Softic's] house is another warning that he should cease with his work, which he is performing by observing the highest ethical and professional standards," Milka Tadic Mijovic, executive director of Monitor, told SETimes.
"In recent years, he published dozens of research articles that reveal the links between crime gangs in Montenegro and their protectors in the institutions of the system. He wrote about the most dangerous groups and clans that have captured our country, and who freely operate protected from the tops of government, police and justice," she added.
Dunja Mijatovic, OSCE's representative on freedom of the media, urged authorities to immediately provide Softic with protection. In a letter to Foreign Affairs Minister Igor Luksic and Interior Minister Rasko Konjevic, Mijatovic said attacks against journalists endanger media freedom and represent a clear assault on free expression.
"This is yet another case of violence and intimidation against journalists in Montenegro, many of which have not resulted in prosecutions or convictions. These acts have to be treated as attacks against the society as a whole, and a thorough investigation is required to ensure that media freedom is protected," Mijatović told SETimes.
The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) strongly condemned the attack and expressed concern about the reoccurrence of threats against Vijesti journalists.
"I urge the authorities in Montenegro to do everything in their power to find the perpetrators in the case of Softic and in all past cases that remain unsolved, and to prevent such incidents from happening in the future," Oliver Vujovic, SEEMO secretary general, said in a statement.
Softic recalled other cases of violence against journalists, noting that the most brutal attack -- the 2004 murder of newspaper editor Dusko Jovanovic -- has yet to be solved. The only conviction in the case came in 2009, when Damir Mandic was sentenced to 18 years in jail as an accomplice. Police have still not determined who ordered the killing.
"While the cases of beatings and killings of journalists who write about organised crime and corruption are unresolved, the message to the journalism students and young people who want to deal with this job is clear -- you have nothing to hope for. You'd better not start in this business," Softic added.
Sunday’s incident was not the first attack on Softic. In 2007, he was beaten in front of his home by two unknown assailants. Police have made no arrests in connection with the attack.
"Police are taking all necessary measures in order to find the attackers of journalist Tufik Softic. Traces of the scene of the explosion have been collected, and the expert shall subsequently determine what kind of explosive device it was. Several persons were interrogated by the police. Officers, in co-operation with prosecutors, are now investigating the case," Tamara Popovic, a spokeswoman of the Montenegrin police, told SETimes.
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