Written by Jesse Chase–Lubitz, OCCRP
Serbian journalist Stefan Cvetkovic, known for criticizing local authorities, was reported missing Wednesday evening from the Vojvodina town of Bela Crkva in Serbia. His car was left running with the door open and the lights on.
Police in Bela Crkva said they informed the prosecutor and are searching for the missing journalist.
Attempts to reach him by phone have been unsuccessful, according to Beta News Agency.
Witnesses confirmed that his watch was found with the bracelet broken next to the car.
The Independent Journalists’ Association of Serbia (NUNS) and Independent Society of Journalists of Vojvodina (NDNV) have called on the police to launch an extremely intensive search for Cvetkovic.
The NUNS statement said that tens of police officers were sent to Bela Crkva from Belgrade to help the search. Divers were inspecting the nearby lake and the Dunav-Tisa-Dunav channel.
In 2014, Cvetkovic filed a complaint of misuse of public funds and has recently questioned the role of three government officials in various criminal matters, according to Reporters Without Borders.
In May, he told Serbian agency Beta that he had been detained for six hours at the Jarinje administrative crossing point in northern Kosovo. After being released, he received a document from the Kosovo police confirming that his detainment was due to his investigation of the murder of Kosovo political Oliver Ivanovic.
In February, he held a press conference in Belgrade called “How Much Costs a Liquidation in the North of Kosovo.” He showed photographs of people allegedly involved in the liquidation of Oliver Ivanovic and claimed that the assassin was paid 40.000 euros (US$47,288).
In May 2017, Cvetkovic was sentenced to 27 months in prison as well a two million dinars (US$20,000) fine after three officials of the ruling Serbian Progressive Party filed complaints against him, according to a statement issued by the European Federation of Journalists.
Reporters Without Borders, NUNS and NDNV publicly condemned the sentence in March. “This verdict is unfair and disproportionate,” said Pauline Ades-Mevel, the head of RSF’s European Union-Balkan desk. “Since 2012, defamation is no longer punishable by imprisonment.”
Srdjan Cvijic, a senior policy analyst on external relations for the Open Society European Policy Institute tweeted, “Stefan Cvetkovic, a journo from Serba disappeared last night. His car with an open door left working. All telephones switched off. He was under attack by local bosses of the ruling SNS party.”
Central-East Europe correspondent Andrew MacDowall tweeted, “Journalist Stefan Cvetkovic disappears in Serbia. More seriously worrying news about journalists in the region. Are local authorities, EU, etc., taking this seriously?”