Government officials in Serbia must condemn the brutal attack against journalist and radio host Daško Milinović that occurred in Novi Sad on April 16 and ensure that law enforcement authorities bring those responsible to justice, the International Press Institute (IPI) said today.
At around 6.45am, the host of the satirical “Daško & Mlađa” radio show was assaulted by two hooded young men who ambushed him on the street while he was on his way to work, spraying him with tear gas or pepper spray and then hitting him with a metal rod.
The journalist managed to defend the blows with forearm and limit the worst of the attack however he was later admitted to the city’s emergency centre and treated for minor injuries. The unidentified assailants fled the scene.
“This early morning attack was clearly premeditated and the fact that Daško’s attackers wielded a metal rod indicated they meant to inflict serious injuries on him, so we are thankful that he managed to escape relatively unscathed”, IPI Deputy Director Scott Griffen said.
“But the fact that a media worker has been attacked in such a manner is extremely worrying and presents yet another illustration of how common these kinds of physical attacks on journalists are in Serbia. One of the reasons that leads individuals to violently attack a journalist on the streets like this is that in similar cases, those behind such attacks are never identified or prosecuted.
“Serbia’s new Working Group for Security and Protection of Journalists must ensure this case is prioritized and that all available resources are utilized to ensure those responsible for carrying out this brutal attack do not evade justice. Impunity will only encourage others to carry out similar attacks in the future. We welcome the fact that police and the prosecutor’s office acted swiftly to launch an investigation.
“Condemnation by government ministers in such cases is also important to make it abundantly clear that a culture of hostility and impunity which jeopardizes the safety of journalists and the media is completely unacceptable. We welcome the condemnation by Prime Minister Ana Brnabić and urge other ministers and MPs to follow her example, now and in the future. Words must now be followed up with action. IPI and our partners in the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) will monitor this case closely in the coming weeks.”
#Serbia: IPI strongly condemns assault on radio host Dasko Milinovic, who was tear gassed, attacked with a metal bar this morning. He thankfully escaped with minor injuries.
— IPI – The Global Network for Press Freedom (@globalfreemedia) April 16, 2021
Milinović hosts a daily satirical show with his colleague Mladen Urdarevic, which is broadcasted on their online radio station. In the past he has faced different forms of intimidation and threats but has never been physically attacked.
In an interview with N1, he said he was able to defend himself against three blows from the metal rod and that the attackers “were not versed in what they were doing”. He added: “When I saw them approaching me from ten meters, it was clear to me that they would attack me, and I had time to take a good defensive position.”
Milinović reported the attack to the police and was interviewed by officers and the chief of the Novi Sad police. He also gave a statement to the prosecutor.
In 2021, the Independent Journalists Association of Serbia (NUNS) recorded 35 cases of attacks or acts of intimidation or pressure against journalists. The previous year, it recorded 32 cases of physical attacks.