Serbian Journalist Predrag Blagojević Assaulted by Police at a Music Festival over Identification

Update: 23 Feb 2018 State replied
Year 25 Aug 2015 Country Serbia Category Attacks on physical safety and integrity of journalists Source of threat State Partner EFJ/IFJ Alert level Level 2
25 Aug 2015 Serbia Attacks on physical safety and integrity of journalists State EFJ/IFJ Level 2

Predrag Blagojević, editor of the Juzne Vesti website was the victim of police violence at a music festival on the night of Saturday 15 August 2015. Blagojević, who had previously received threats, recounted the incident to media, saying that a police officer at the festival asked for his identity. When the journalist presented his international accreditation card, the officer took him to a police van and hit him twice on the head, warning the reporter “not to act smart”. Blagojević was also prevented from using his phone to contact anyone who could confirm his identity. He was later taken to the local police station where officers finally checked his papers. Following media reports of this attack and the outrage by the journalists’ unions, the chief of police in Nishville, Srdjan Grekulovic, announced the launch of an investigation into the incident.

State replies

24 Nov 2015 : Reply from the Republic of Serbia provided by the Ministry of Interior

Follow-ups

23 Feb 2018 : Commissioner for Human Rights: ‘Concerted efforts needed to protect media freedoms in Serbia’
25 Aug 2015 : OSCE media freedom representative calls for full investigation into police attack on journalist in Serbia

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On 20 March 2018, the European Court of Human Rights issued its Grand chamber judgment on Mehmet Altan’s case. The Court found there had been a violation of Article 5 § 1 (right to liberty and security) and a violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention for Human Rights. With regards to article 5 §1, according to the Court findings, “Mr Altan’s continued pre-trial detention, after the Constitutional Court’s clear and unambiguous judgment of 11 January 2018 (…), could not be regarded as ‘lawful’ ”. The Court held that “for another court to call into question the powers conferred on a constitutional court to give final and binding judgments on individual applications ran counter to the fundamental principles of the rule of law and legal certainty, which (…) were the cornerstones of the guarantees against arbitrariness”. Under Article 10, the Court held in particular that “there was no reason to reach a different conclusion from that of the Constitutional Court, which had found that Mr Altan’s initial and continued pre-trial detention, following his expression of his opinions, constituted a severe measure that could not be regarded as a necessary and proportionate interference in a democratic society”. The Court pointed out in particular that “criticism of governments and publication of information regarded by a country’s leaders as endangering national interests should not attract criminal charges for particularly serious offences such as belonging to or assisting a terrorist organisation, attempting to overthrow the government or the constitutional order or disseminating terrorist propaganda”.

20 March 2018

On 20 March 2018, the European Court of Human Rights issued its Grand chamber judgment on Şahin Alpay’s case. The Court found there had been a violation of Article 5 § 1 (right to liberty and security) and a violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention for Human Rights. With regards to article 5 §1, according to the Court findings, “Mr Alpay’s continued pre-trial detention, after the Constitutional Court’s clear and unambiguous judgment of 11 January 2018 (…), could not be regarded as ‘lawful’ ”. The Court held that “for another court to call into question the powers conferred on a constitutional court to give final and binding judgments on individual applications ran counter to the fundamental principles of the rule of law and legal certainty, which (…) were the cornerstones of the guarantees against arbitrariness”. Under Article 46 (binding force and execution of judgments) of the Convention, the Court held that it was incumbent on the respondent State to ensure the termination of Mr Alpay’s pre-tria detention at the earliest possible date. Under Article 10, the Court held in particular that “there was no reason to reach a different conclusion from that of the Constitutional Court, which had found that Mr Alpay’s initial and continued pre-trial detention, following his expression of his opinions, constituted a severe measure that could not be regarded as a necessary and proportionate interference in a democratic society”. The Court pointed out in particular that “criticism of governments and publication of information regarded by a country’s leaders as endangering national interests should not attract criminal charges for particularly serious offences such as belonging to or assisting a terrorist organisation, attempting to overthrow the government or the constitutional order or disseminating terrorist propaganda”.
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