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news 12 Jul 17

Bosnian Reporter Flees After Condemning Mladic Rally

Columnist Dragan Bursac has fled Banja Luka after receiving death threats from supporters of the former Bosnian Serb military commander Ratko Mladic.

BIRN
Banja Luka
 
 Dragan Bursac. Photo: Curtesy of Bursac.

Journalist Dragan Bursac - who received death threats after criticizing a planned rally in Banja Luka in support of Ratko Mladic - told BIRN that he had been forced to go into hiding for some time.

He had reported the death threats he has received to the police, he added.

Burcac received the highly aggressive threats after publishing a column expressing deep revulsion at a planned demonstration in support of the former Bosnian Serb commander under the slogan “Support for General Ratko Mladic - Stop the Lies about Srebrenica.”

It was scheduled to be held on July 11 - on the same day as the annual commemoration of the 1995 massacre of Bosniaks in Srebrenica by Bosnian Serb forces under Mladic’s control.

Courts have deemed the massacre of some 8,000 Bosniaks [Muslims] a genocidal act.

The Interior Ministry of Republika Srpska, the Serb-dominated entity in Bosnia, has since delayed the rally, citing security issues.

Outraged at the planned rally, Bursac asked whether people were willing to stand by and watch as “the Srebrenica genocide is celebrated in Banja Luka?”.

The organizers of the rally were a right-wing Serbian nationalist movement called the “Zavetnici”, or “Oath-takers.”

After that, Bursac received death threats that forced him to flee Banja Luka.

“I received explicit threats via social networks, detailing what they would do to me and my family,” Bursac told BIRN.

In calling off the rally, the interior ministry on Monday said that it would be unable to patrol the gathering of an expected 1,000 participants because most of its police would be away, safeguarding the commemorative events in Srebrenica itself.

Bursac said it was very problematic that the rally had not been banned completely but only rescheduled.

“Instead of banning the rally, they have delayed it. They are saying: ‘OK, fascism is not allowed on July 11, but it will be allowed at a later date,’” he said.

Burcas said that a silent majority in Banja Luka was just watching as extremists turned the city into a hotbed for “Chetniks” – a code word for Serbian ultra-nationalists.  

“What do you call a citizen of Banja Luka who will watch, shrugging and mute, as this lunacy takes place in the centre of the city? There is a word for that - an accomplice!” Bursac wrote in his article.

Bursac concluded that his own forced flight was yet another example of the worsening plight of journalists in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

“If you are reporting on culture, concerts, festivals ... you are wonderful, but if you peek into the pockets of politicians and tycoons, and refuse to uphold fascism, then you receive death threats,” he said.

Over 70 more victims of the July 1995 genocide were due to be buried at the annual ceremony at the Srebrenica memorial site on July 11.

Mladic is currently on trial in The Hague for genocide and other crimes in Bosnia and Herzegovina, with the first-instance verdict expected in November.

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