The International Press Institute (IPI), a global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists for press freedom, today strongly condemned the physical attack and death threats against journalist Sinan Gluhić in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

On June 5 Gluhić, who works for Bosnian language public television station RTV Zenica, was allegedly assaulted by a member of the Party of Democratic Activity (A-SDA), Sulejman Spahic, as he was on his way to work.

In the presence of a witness, the politician issued a death threat against Gluhić and then punched him in the neck and face, inflicting minor injuries requiring medical treatment.

The attack reportedly followed days of verbal threats and insults against the journalist via telephone and social networks by party leaders of the A-SDA, including the president of the party’s Cantonal Board.

The incidents are believed to be linked to a Facebook post that Gluhić shared on May 31 in which he reportedly criticized an A-SDA minister about the delayed construction of a local road. The A-SDA issued a statement denying the attack.

Both the attack and previous threats were reported to the Zenica police administration and an investigation has been opened. The case has also been referred to the prosecutor’s office. According to local media reports, 24-hour police protection was requested for the journalist due to fears for his safety.

The Western Balkan’s Regional Platform for Advocating Media Freedom and Journalists’ Safety welcomed the swift reaction by the police and called for a thorough investigation.

IPI Deputy Director Scott Griffen condemned the assault and said the incident was the latest in a series of death threats made against journalists in the country in the past few months.

“This kind of brazen attack on a member of the press from a politician is unacceptable in a democratic state”, he said. “We call on lawmakers in Bosnia and Herzegovina to publicly condemn such behavior and for the police to bring charges against those responsible. Unfortunately, far from being an isolated incident, over the past two months we have seen other journalists in the country receive deplorable insults and serious threats.”

Recent death threats

On May 22, Vanja Stokic, editor-in-chief of the E-trafika news portal, received a death threat on Facebook after publishing a photograph on her profile depicting her with two migrants. In the message it was stated that the sender would “decapitate” not only migrants, but also “all you soul caregivers who welcome them”. Additional threats and harassing messages were sent to Stokic and her friends.

On May 26, Nikola Vucic, a journalist at N1 television, also received death threats via social media after posting a comment critical of the government on his Twitter account. Vucic’s post was followed by threats and calls for violence against him, including statements that he should end up “in the Neretva river or impaled”. He also received numerous other insulting messages against him, and his family and his personal details were published.

In recent months, journalists have faced pressure also from other authorities and police while reporting. On April, RTV Slon journalists were briefly detained by police who seized their phones and deleted all the footage about the event they had been documenting.