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News 11 Jan 16

Serbian Interior Minister Accused of Bugging Journalist

The Independent Association of Journalists of Serbia said it will file criminal charges against Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic because it alleges that he was responsible for bugging its president.

Sasa Dragojlo
BIRN
Belgrade
Photo: Media Centre

Vukasin Obradovic, the president of the Independent Association of Journalists of Serbia, NUNS, said on Monday that he wanted to find out how the interior minister knew what was said during a private conversation he had with a police officer who has also filed a criminal charge against Stefanovic.

“I will file charges against Nebojsa Stefanovic and ask the authorities to establish how Stefanovic knew what I talked about with the police officer, and also determine whether I was followed or bugged,” Obradovic told a press conference.

Stefanovic appeared on the Serbian public broadcaster RTS on January 8, suggesting that someone would file a false criminal charge against him and claim that some journalists in the country were being followed.

“One representative of a journalists’ association, I will not say who, will show up in public with these accusations claiming it is scandalous, although there is no evidence,” Stefanovic said.

Obradovic said he found it “very suspicious” that Stefanovic appeared on RTS just a few hours after he talked with the police officer.

The unnamed police officer filed a criminal charge for “abuse of public office and trading in influence” against Stefanovic and the secretary of the Criminal Police, Dijana Hrkalovic, in early 2015.

In the police officer’s charge, it alleges that the Department for Security Affairs, which is part of the Interior Ministry, secretly followed a journalist without a court order.

Jovana Gligorijevic, a journalist with the weekly magazine Vreme, told Monday’s press conference that she believed this was just the latest example of a “demonstration of power” by the interior minister.

She cited a previous incident in November 2015 when Stefanovic held a press conference about an alleged coup d’état while armed special police officers stood behind him.

In September 2015, opposition Democratic Party leader Bojan Pajtic also alleged that he was being bugged, but the Interior Ministry and the Serbian Security Agency denied this.

The Belgrade Centre for Security Policy meanwhile published a report on police integrity in November last year in which it said that the interior minister has “excessive discretionary powers”.

The NUNS press conference was marred by an argument between most of the journalists who were present and the editor of pro-government tabloid Informer, Dragan J. Vucicevic, who sought to challenge the credibility of the policeman who filed a complaint against Stefanovic.

The journalists accused Vucicevic of a lack of solidarity with his colleagues.

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