Several journalists and activists were attacked in Banja Luka on the evening of March 18, in front of the office where a meeting of members of the LGBTIQ+ community from all over Bosnia and Herzegovina was organized, with the aim of watching a thematic documentary film and discussing the rights of this community and their protection. Earlier that day, the police decided to ban the gathering of the Organizing Committee of “Bh. pride parades because of “security risks”.
The activists decided to gather anyway, indoors, and about 15 of them, including journalists, were attacked by a group of up to 30-40 hooligans. The police did nothing to protect the participants of the meeting, and they did not ensure that the journalists could carry out their work unhindered. After the incident, a part of the activists and journalists tried to escape by running away, while the other group was evacuated by the police to the police station in Banja Luka, where they were interrogated as victims.
Borka Rudic, general secretary of the BH Journalists Association, says that the President of the Republic of Srpska Milorad Dodik and the Mayor of Banja Luka Drasko Stanivukovic are responsible for the attack in Banja Luka, who incited and spread hatred towards the LGBTIQ+ community and all those who support them days before the incident itself. “These two politicians did not speak publicly about the human rights of that minority community, as would be normal in democratic states; they did not speak about how it is inadmissible to oppose the human rights of one group in relation to another, they did not speak about preventing discrimination…In their statements, they put in the foreground what they like and what they don’t like, what is their worldview in relation to the LGBTIQ+ community as if they were private individuals and not the holders of the highest positions in this entity”, says Rudic and adds that “the same level of responsibility borne by the police because they acted in accordance with the ‘wishes’ of politicians, and not in accordance with the Law on Public Gathering of the Republic of Srpska and their own institutional obligation to protect minority groups from the violence of the majority”.
SafeJournalists Network, representing more than 8,200 media professionals in the Western Balkans, strongly condemns this attack and joins its member BH Journalists Association and provides support to the attacked journalists Vanja Stokic and Melani Isovic, journalist Vanja Sunjic and photojournalist Ajdin Kamber. The network demands an immediate investigation of the attacks on journalists and activists, and the discovery of the attackers and those behind this attack. We also call on the authorities to refrain from statements that incite violence and hate speech.
SafeJournalists network will inform all relevant national and international stakeholders about this case.
Each attack on journalists is an attack on public interest, democracy and rights of all citizens.
Belgrade – Podgorica – Pristina – Sarajevo – Skopje – Zagreb, 20.3.2023
Association of Journalists of Kosovo
Association of Journalists of Macedonia
BH Journalists Association
Croatian Journalists’ Association
Independent Journalists’ Association of Serbia
Trade Union of Media of Montenegro