10. jun 2020.

It is the safest “job” to kill a journalist

More than 90 percent of the cases in world statistics say that the murder of a journalist is not solved, the murder is not punished, perpetrator is not brought to justice... Somehow, it turns out that killing a journalist is the cheapest form of censorship.

When a journalist is killed, then it is mostly politically motivated, whether it is related to the organized crime, or civil rights… And when murderers and perpetrators are not revealed, that is also politics, political will.

In the case of solving the murder of Slavko Curuvija, the political will is clearly expressed. We have a 100-year long first-instance verdict, which we hope the Appellate will confirm in some form.

Journalist of “Vecernje Novosti”, Milan Pantic, was killed in 2001, during the rule of Democratic Party. Before the fall of Milosevic, the leading opposition had sworn that its first move would be to investigate and punish the murderers of Slavko and Dada. Instead, another murder took place – the murder of Milan Pantic, a „provincial journalist“ from a small town, he was killed in front of the entrance to the building where he lived, next to his body was a loaf of bread that he went down to the store to buy. They smashed his head, which the later Minister of Police Dragan Jocic had phrased that the killers did not want to kill him, but only to intimidate him.

Unfortunately, I had a chance to see that intimidation in the photos. These were blows with clear attempt to kill a journalist. A zealous correspondent of the daily chronicle, a man who believed that state policy was to expose corruption at every level. Again, we were promised that the murderer would be immediately exposed and this killing resolved. That never happened. Seven working groups seemed to fake the investigation. Minister of Police Dusan Mihajlovic said long before Jocic, during the operation „Saber“, that the killer is about to be discovered… All politicians in the same time repeated the mantra that the first priority is to solve the murders of all journalists, including Milan Pantic.

This was not done even during the operation “Saber”, when everything about the assassination of Prime Minister Djindjic was revealed, when everything related to the kidnapping and murder of Ivan Stambolic, former President of Serbia, was revealed, when Dragoljub Milanovic, former RTS director, was found hiding in his resort near Bar, in order to avoid to serve the ten-year prison sentence he was sentenced to, when the perpetrators and evidence for the assassination on the Ibar highway were found.

Back then, when they could do everything and when no one was standing in their way. We usually talk about the lack of political will from the ancient past and the will of the judicial authorities, but in this case, we must ask ourselves whether we can also talk about intentional obstruction, concealment, which results in being in a way accomplice to the crime. That’s because the murder happened during the new, democratic government, when the tycoons looted Serbia, when foreign companies became the owners of the most profitable companies overnight… The crime scene investigation was performed in a sloppy manner by the police, it was compromised, testimonies of all possible witnesses, tenants, were not taken in an appropriate way, not even the clothes Milan was wearing that day hadn’t been preserved. Police did not even look at his cell phone. Nor did they collect the articles he had written in those months.

Yet, they claimed that more than a thousand people were interrogated.

They were massively taken to polygraph testing, only to accumulate “results”.

When the Commission for investigating the killings of journalists started dealing with this case, especially in the last two years, work was done from the very beginning, and it is still being done through actions that were not performed due to numerous oversights, although they belong to the obligatory protocol. The Working Group of the Ministry of the Interior put together the most probable cause of the murder, with the perpetrators and possible perpetrators, with a clear motive and clues. We insisted that the case be labeled as the highest level of priority, and to be taken over by the Prosecutor’s Office for Organized Crime. However, we always faced with the response that there is not enough evidence for them, and that we should address them when we gather evidence. (What would anyone go to them then for, I guess they are in charge of collecting necessary evidence). Today, I’ve read in daily „Blic“ in an exclusive report, about the success of the Prosecutor’s Office for organized crime, nine pimps arrested… I get a cynical message from a colleague who commented on this news in the following manner: “Probably due to the prosecution of pimps, they cannot deal with the killings of journalists and the most plunderous privatization of one of the most profitable companies in that area”.

Since the launch of the work of the Commission, Ljiljana Smajlovic and I have been treated this case as important as the other two. We knew to what extent our colleagues inside the country had suffered from pressure and violence, and to what extent they were unprotected. However, despite everything that has been done, it seems that the killers and those who ordered those killings will “laugh at our faces”, as they have been doing since June 11, 2001. They are aware that we know, and they enjoy the benefits provided by that, and other, plunderous privatizations… If someone’s life is threatened or jeopardized along the way, who cares… Members of certain Commission. Well, they are also human, especially when we know that over 90% of murders of journalists are not solved, do not experience a court epilogue, when top police inspectors and investigators are being liquidated, also without court epilogues. What can we expect when Prosecutor’s Offices for organized crime and courts dedicate their skills to apprehending pimps, instead of a serious organized crime… with fatal outcomes.

Milan Pantic’s wife and his son will hold a memorial service on Thursday – for the nineteenth time. A dozen fellow journalists from Jagodina and Belgrade will gather on the cemetery. Journalistic Award named after Milan Pantic will be awarded. Clients will enjoy their accumulated real estate, full safes, their power to increase wealth unhindered, keeping the role of „capable“ businessmen. One dossier on the plunderous privatization, which is the motive for the murder of the journalist, will be covered with dust, archived back in 2010. It got lost somewhere between the two prosecutors’ offices. Everyone in the judiciary, who had something to do with the fact that the investigation in the case of that privatization was stopped, got promoted.  No one reacted to the amendment to that dossier in 2013. The witness who presented full documentation and the privatization scheme, the names and bank accounts to which he paid the money, is currently in Belgrade, he gave a statement to the police, he is available, and is waiting to testify in a process that is far from happening.

Milan Pantic’s wife and his son will again this year, do what the custom calls for, with reverence, love and sadness. Every year they learn something more from us who know more than them. They accept new findings with pride. And with that overbearing pain that justice is not achievable when it comes to their personal loss. The rest of us are left with the pain that the case of our murdered colleague cannot be solved despite all the efforts of several journalists, several members of the police department and Security Information Agency (BIA), and despite the fact that there is a full reconstruction of the murder, containing names of possible perpetrators. There’s also the impression of not doing everything, just everything in our power, to get justice served. Sometimes it is not achievable for various reasons and circumstances, but one thing must be held indisputable – that we need to do everything in our power to solve this murder. Therefore, until the Prosecutor’s Office for Organized Crime takes over this case and does everything possible, no justice will be served.

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