Media rights teams and opposition campaigners on Saturday condemned a Serbian appeals courtroom ruling that acquitted 4 former intelligence officers who had been jailed for the killing of a distinguished journalist and newspaper writer who was fiercely important of the federal government in Belgrade.
Slavko Curuvija was shot lifeless on the entrance to his Belgrade condo throughout the 1999 NATO bombing of Serbia over its crackdown towards Kosovo Albanian separatists.
His killing grew to become a logo of the lengthy wrestle for a free press within the Balkan nation that’s formally in search of membership within the European Union.
The ruling by the Appeals Court on Friday overturned its earlier verdict in 2021 that convicted the 4 males and sentenced them to prolonged jail phrases. The courtroom in Belgrade stated that the accusations towards the 4 “have not been proven beyond a doubt.”
Independent media organisations had been shocked by the acquittal and warned that important journalists in Serbia nonetheless face threats due to their work.
The authorities of populist President Aleksandar Vucic — who was data minister on the time of Curuvija’s demise — maintains tight management over mainstream media shops.
“I am shocked by this scandalous ruling, it sends a frightening message to all journalists and all people who are fighting for freedom of the speech,” stated Jelena Curuvija, the sufferer’s daughter who runs a basis that promotes media freedom.
“This verdict is a proof that the dark forces of the 1990s still rule this country,” she stated. “This is a land of darkness.”
A media freedom consultant for the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Teresa Ribeiro, expressed her dismay over the ruling.
“The fact that this case still remains unresolved, almost 25 years after this courageous journalist was murdered, is very disturbing,” Ms. Ribeiro stated in a press release. “Impunity for this heinous crime is not only extremely painful for Curuvija’s family and colleagues, but also deeply disappointing for the whole of Serbian society.”
Curuvija was considered an enemy of the state by the regime of former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic. The state-run media managed by Milosevic’s regime accused him of ‘’inviting’’ NATO to bomb Serbia. The 1999 NATO intervention in Serbia was in response to Milosevic’s bloody crackdown on ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, a former Serbian province that declared independence in 2008.
Serbian authorities officers have repeatedly denied any strain on non-government media.
The U.S. Ambassador to Serbia Christopher Hill additionally expressed concern over the courtroom ruling.
“Disheartening to see that justice and accountability for the killers of Slavko Curuvija remain elusive, even 25 years after his murder,” he wrote on X, previously Twitter. “A sad day for journalism.”