Almost since its founding, KRIK (Crime and Corruption Reporting Network) has been the target of many attacks by the pro-government tabloid Informer and other media close to the government and criminal circles. Informer has, on several occasions, made false accusations about KRIK’s editor-in-chief Stevan Dojčinović, representing him as partner to foreign secret services.
In the following texts, you can track the development of the anti-KRIK campaign and the campaign against other independent media, and follow the reactions it caused.11-8-2016
The pro-government tabloid „Informer“ again launched a campaign against KRIK and other non-profit organizations involved in investigative journalism for their research on crime and corruption. The tabloid’s article „Dirt: America and the EU Pay Liars and Racketeers“ falsely accuses KRIK and other research organizations of „almost every day unnecessarily falsifing Serbian public affairs and calculating to bring about chaos in Serbia.“ This article is on the front page of the tabloid, which also shows a photo of KRIK’s editor Stevan Dojčinović.
We remind everyone that KRIK is an organization engaged in investigative journalism, and does not create the affairs, nor does it represent anyone’s interests. KRIK is funded by donations and its tax obligations regularly meet in accordance with legal regulations.11-3-2016
Pro-government tabloid “Srpski telegraf” accused KRIK of participating in “taking down (Prime Minister) Aleksandar Vučić“ and “setting up“ his brother.
Placing KRIK in this context is particularly dangerous and represents a threat to the safety of our journalists, especially when one considers the current situation in Serbia, where for the past several days the entire country has been in talks about a recent assassination attempt on the Prime Minister, while some government officials have said that his brother was also a potential target.6-27-2016
The pro-government tabloid „Informer“ again attacked the editor of Crime and Corruption Reporting Network (KRIK), Stevan Dojčinović, stating that the aim of researching the assets of Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić was to „produce a chaotic atmosphere so as to prove that thieves and criminals are in power.“
Dojčinović earlier sued the newspaper and its owner and chief editor Dragan J. Vučićević due to the lies stated by „Informer“.6-25-2016
In their article, „Court Punishes Them, Forigners Reward Them,“ published on June 25, the daily newspaper „Politika“ attacked the Crime and Corruption Reporting Network (KRIK) in an attempt to challenge the credibility of our organization and the award we had received. Journalist Višnja Aranđelović said our story on Belgrade Mayor Siniša Mali’s property assessments was „flawed text“, that we had not check all the documentation, and that „some details of the story are controversial“.
The Editor of KRIK, Stevan Dojčinović, stated in response to this article that the credibility of our research on 24 apartments on the Bulgarian coast, which were bought by offshore companies that Mayor Mali is a director of, has not been called into question, and pointed out that the public still does not know who the mayor bought the property for.
„Rather than insisting on knowing to whom this money the mayor is secretly investing to, journalists attacked colleagues who have made a great discovery,“ says Dojčinović.6-24-2016
Stevan Dojčinović, editor of Crime and Corruption Reporting Newtork (KRIK), has sued Ištvan Kaić, an associate of Vladimir Beba Popović, because of lies that Kaić published on his website. In an article published in March, Kaić accused the editor of KRIK of being a „fake journalist“ and an „editor of an organization falsely registered as a media,“ that Dojčinović had „criminalized people close to the government and the prime minister“ and had participated in „racketeering marked targets“. Dojčinović was falsely accused of working for the late Miki Rakić and Boris Tadi-, as well as for people from the prosecution and the police.6-6-2016
Journalists’ associations condemned the declaration of the editor of „Pečat“, Milorad Vučelić, saying that the statement that KRIK editor Dojčinović was a „foreign invading mercenary“ who was trying to provoke a war in the Balkans would jeopardize his safety.
„This vocabulary exceeds not only the boundaries of journalistic ethics, but is also a direct call to lynch Dojčinović“ said a statement signed by the Independent Association of Journalists of Serbia (NUNS), the Independent Journalists’ Association of Vojvodina (NDNV) and the Association of Online Media (AOM). These associations have urged relevant authorities, notably the prosecution, to take the measures envisaged by the law to protect Dojčinović, as they believe that these statements directly threatened his security.
Today’s article in the pro-government tabloid „Informer“ has said that „Dojčinović plans to overthrow the government in Macedonia.“ This is part of a campaign that has been ongoing for months against the editor in chief of KRIK, Stevan Dojčinović.
Once again, „Informer“ has made a number of untruths against Dojčinović, accusing him of „training the Macedonian opposition to overthrowing the government.“
False statements from the tabloid’s article include comments from Milorad Vučelić, editor of „Pečat“ and Vladimir Đukanovic, deputy Prime Minister and a member of the Serbian Progressive Party. They attacked Dojčinović, who the deputy prime minister called „Soroš agent“, while Vučelić called him a „foreign invading mercenary“ who tried to provoke a war in the Balkans.4-22-2016
KRIK Editor Stevan Dojčinović has filed a lawsuit against the tabloid „Informer“ and its editor and owner Dragan Vučićević. Over the course of less than a year of work, Dojčinović and KRIK were on ten front pages of „Informer“ which accused the editor of KIRK of being a „false journalist“, „Western spy“, „mafia associate“, „sadomasochist“ and „terrorist“ who „fabricates affairs“ – all this without any evidence. None of the texts are signed, nor do any of them name the sources of these allegations.4-11-2016
Daily newspaper „Politika“, in an article titled „Selectively Investigative Journalism“, joined the pro-government tabloid „Informer“ in an attempt to discredit KRIK. KRIK has earlier complained to the Press Council of “Politika”’s writing.
After the publishing of the „Panama Papers“, a global project that involved more than 100 organizations of investigative journalism including KRIK, pro-tabloid „Informer“ again attacked the editor of KRIK, Stevan Dojčinović. In an article titled „Sadomasochist Steva Raped Panama”, the tabloid repeated the falsehood that have been published against Dojčinović in the past few months.3-31-2016
The Italian organization „Stampo Antimafioso“ expressed solidarity with the Crime and Corruption Reporting Network (KRIK) for the assault in which KRIK has been exposed to.
„We know how difficult it is in Europe to get to the right information. You are trying to overcoming great difficulties and for that we are grateful. As colleagues, we are sorry for the insults which you are exposed to and which are most likely caused by prejudice or ideas that are not helpful for the development of democracy,“ says editorial staff of the organization.3-23-2016
Reporters Fund, Poland
Reporters Fund, a Polish organization run by investigative journalists, strongly supports Serbian journalist Stevan Dojčinović who is under attack in his homeland.
“We want to express our unconditional solidarity in this moment of severe political persecution that he is subjected to,” said the statement.3-22-2016
Dragan Janjic, IJAS
Vice-President of the Independent Journalist’s Association of Serbia (IJAS), Dragan Janjic, said that state authorities are accomplices in the campaign against independent media.
“It is symptomatic that the threats and campaigns are against the media which are investigating either the property or affairs of the people in high government positions. I think the government is involved in creating this atmosphere.
Aleksandar Vucic, PM of Serbia
Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said today that he doesn’t want to interfere in what the media say about each other. “In Serbia, everyone is free and permitted to say and write what he wants, respecting the legal restrictions.” Regarding the attacks on KRIK, he said that he did not see such a fuss made when 10-20 different media wrote “much worse about somebody’s family”.
The Hungarian investigative portal Atlatszo supported KRIK and its editor Stevan Dojčinović.
Aleksandar Vucic, PM of Serbia
Speaking about the attacks of the pro-government tabloid Informer on KRIK and its editor Stevan Dojčinović, Aleksandar Vucic said that no one should be bothered by the fact that the owner of the tabloid Dragan Vucicevic “thinks differently”. The Prime Minister commented that it seems no one is allowed to take pictures of Dojčinović in the street, suggesting that the photo published by the tabloid was snapped by a passerby, not the state security services.
“Unfortunately, some people want to investigate what no one in Serbia has done before — how my parents, my father and my mother who are honest, serious and responsible people, bought a house in Jajinci, and how they obtained the apartment,” said Vučić. “We don’t own anything. They are angered by this, so in their investigation they included apartments from 20 years ago which my father sold in order to buy another apartment. I am not afraid of your lies or your hunts, or anything else that you have been investigating for months now.”
Support from Slovenia
The Slovenian Association of Journalists shared their concerns and support for colleagues from Serbia and the region as Serbian pro-regime media increased the intensity of attacks against those who criticize the government in any way.
“Pro-government media in Serbia are the extended arm of the executive government. Violating basic ethical rules and calling for the lynching of inappropriate public figures will have devastating consequences on society. This not only threatens the security of individuals but also promotes hatred and violence as the only means of communication.”
Našega srbskega kolega @StevanOCCRP napadajo z vsemi topovi. Lažmi. Ker odkriva resnico. Podpri @KRIKrs! #podrziKRIK https://t.co/VVMoJSDrZE
— DNS – Naprej/Forward (@novinarSI) March 21, 2016
The Stockholm School of Economics in Riga
The Stockholm School of Economics in Riga (SSE Riga) supported KRIK and its editor Stevan Dojčinović, noting that the attack is aimed at discrediting KRIK and Dojčinović. “This present smear campaign can be used by Dojčinović and other journalists for education —‘this is how those who are investigated will try to discredit journalists who investigate,’ said the letter of support sent by Hans Manson, Program Director and Anders Alexanderson, Vice-President of Public Affairs at SSE Riga.
Opposition parties supports KRIK
Major opposition parties in Serbia have condemned the attack on KRIK and its editor Stevan Dojčinović. Leaders of the ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) supported Informer. The Socialist Party of Serbia has remained mute in connection with the case, as have Boris Tadic and his Social Democratic Party.
Belgrade Centre for Human Rights
Presenting the annual report “Human Rights in Serbia” published by the Belgrade Centre for Human Rights, journalist Ivan Protić commented on the campaign led by Informer against Stevan Dojčinović, editor of KRIK. “The effects of this situation are the violation of the human rights of people who work in the media, and also the violation of the peoples’ right to true, accurate and timely information.”
Another attack Pro-government tabloid Informer continued with attacks on KRIK and its editor Stevan Dojčinović for four days in a row. In an open letter titled “Sorry we exist,” the editor of Informer, Dragan Vucicevic, made a series of accusations, stating that Dojčinović “says what he wants, works for whomever he wants and takes money for that.” He said KRIK is part of a network of pseudo-journalists that doesn`t pay taxes in Serbia, and added that no one has condemned Dojčinović for the lies that often slip his tongue.
Hundreds of users of the social network Twitter expressed their solidarity with KRIK journalists who have been under attack from the pro-government tabloid Informer for the last couple days. In a one-hour action initiated by journalist Dušan Mašić, more than 3,700 tweets were written in support of KRIK. The Twitter community used the hashtag #PodržiKRIK [support KRIK] to express support for our organization, but also to point out that situation in the media is worrying.
Freedom of the press in Serbia in serious trouble #podrziKRIK — Tobias Spöri (@TobiasSpoeri) March 22, 2016
Aleksandar Vucic, PM of Serbia
Commenting on the media attack against KRIK and its editor Stevan Dojčinović, led by the pro-government tabloid Informer, Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said that in Serbia everybody is free and permitted to write whatever he wants. Vucic said that the journalists themselves have to prove that they are being monitored and wiretapped.
“If anyone has any doubts about the unprofessional work of the security services, I would like to see evidence to support this,” said Vucic in response to the suspicion of KRIK’s editor that the photos and information that Informer published were obtained from state security services which are monitoring KRIK journalists. Although he said he does not see anything disputable in KRIK’s investigation of politicians’ property, Vucic, however, did not miss the opportunity to accuse KRIK of publishing articles that contain falsehoods.
Vladimir Djukanovic, member of Parliament for the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) and a member of the Committee on Culture and Information, joined the campaign against KRIK and its editor-in-chief Stevan Dojčinović which is being led by the tabloid Informer. In his blog, Djukanovic launched a series of insults against KRIK and its editor calling them, among other things, “self-proclaimed media elites”, “Soros branches”, and made claims that they are not independent.
Network of journalists
Journalists in the region expressed their concern about the unprecedented increase in attacks by the pro-government media on critics of government. The target these days is Stevan Dojčinović, but also those who stand in his defense.
Journalists in the region indicated that these media are the extended arm of the government headed by Prime Minister Vucic. These fake journalists and editors are being supported by the government, which gives them legitimacy and provides them with new tools and weapons.3-19-2016
Nebojsa Stefanovic, Minister of Interior
“If they have evidence, they should take this up with the prosecutor’s office in charge of the investigation, but the police will not prohibit the media,” said Serbian Minister of Interior Nebojsa Stefanovic, discussing the request of Independent Journalist’s Association of Serbia (IJAS) to determine whether journalists of KRIK were wiretapped. “Some reporters do not like when articles about them are published. They are upset, and they expect us, as the police, to react and silence these media and prohibit them,” said Stefanovic. He accused KRIK journalists of writing “what[ever] comes to mind.” “People who are used to attacking others have to get accustomed to the fact that others may also write about them. When somebody writes about them, they consider that a terrible thing and call upon everyone to react.” This is not the first time Stefanovic attacked KRIK. In November last year, after a series of articles about Mayor of Belgrade Sinisa Mali, he threatened journalists of KRIK, and said that they will be held accountable if their claims against Mali turn out to be false. He later stated that it was odd that KRIK was financed only by foreign donations.3-18-2016
Attack on those who supported KRIK
Editor of KRIK Stevan Dojčinović appeared today on the front page of Informer. In addition to Dojčinović, Informer also attacked Vukasin Obradovic, President of the Independent Association of Journalists of Serbia and Dinko Gruhonjic, Independent Association of Journalists of Vojvodina, who both earlier strongly condemned the attack on KRIK and its editor Stevan Dojčinović.
Drew Sullivan, Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP)
“While Informer’s attack stories in the past have been basically empty, anonymous charges, the latest stories have very disturbing information that appears to come from state intelligence or law enforcement sources”, writes Drew Sullivan, editor and co-founder of the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, a network which KRIK is a part of. “These investigations brought strenuous attacks from Informer but nothing with any substantial information. But when KRIK dared look at Vucic and his family, it was immediately attacked using what may be government-collected data. It may be that Vucic is using the power of the state to try to crush independent media looking too closely at corruption allegations”, Sullivan noted.
#InCaseYouMissedIt – Serbian newspaper attacks OCCRP partner @KRIKrs https://t.co/OcDWfOKVe8 #Serbia #Belgrade pic.twitter.com/PnGbyNA6Ry
— OCCRP (@OCCRP) March 22, 2016
Support from tabloid Kurir The daily newspaper Kurir condemned the campaign led by Informer against Stevan Dojčinović, editor of KRIK. “We call on the authorities to respond to this call for lynching and determine who is following journalists while they are carrying out their assignments; who is submitting their photos; and who has interest in discrediting them. It is interesting that Informer knew what KRIK was investigating prior to publishing, and launched a preemptive strike. Journalists of Kurir felt pressures themselves which were reported to the police, and we know how much the support and solidarity of colleagues means, which we, unfortunately, did not have. We therefore urge all colleagues to show solidarity in this case,” said editor-in-chief of Kurir, Ratko Femić.
Jovana Gligorijevic, journalist
“Informer has crossed the line of tabloid journalism. The public keeps talking about tabloid hunts, but this is by far larger and more dangerous than that. Given the fact that our journalists, in particular Slobodan Georgiev, was also subjected to harassment by Informer, we believe that Informer, as widely as the concept of media is understood, cannot be media, but a means of intimidation and pressure on different people from public life,” said Jovana Gligorijevic of the weekly magazine Vreme.
Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN)
The Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN), an association of 128 organizations in 58 countries, deplored the recent attacks on the character and work of Stevan Dojčinović and KRIK. “We call upon the government of Serbia to take all measures to protect the security of Mr. Dojčinović and his staff, and to respect their freedom to conduct independent journalism. Our members worldwide will be monitoring the situation closely”
GIJN Statement: #Serbia Attacks on Journalist @StevanOCCRP and @KRIKrs Must End. We are watching. #podrziKRIK https://t.co/azxpMb9oO3 — GIJN (@gijn) March 19, 2016
Heinrich Böll Foundation
“Informer’s campaign proves that this country has been taken over by one party, indeed by the Prime Minister personally, and that a part of the Serbian press is openly supporting him in the process. For this very reason, the work of independent investigative journalism is of major importance for a democratic Serbia which respects not only majorities, but also checks and balances, and that is why the Heinrich Böll Foundation Belgrade supports the work by KRIK.”
Tamara Skrozza, journalist
“Nearly every line of the text on the editor of KRIK Stevan Dojčinović by Informer is an unproven fact that, apparently, speaks in favor of the main thesis of the entire hunt. While the scandalous, illegal and immoral behavior of Dragan Vucicevic is serving exclusively in the defense of the character and work of Aleksandar Vucic, it is still not clear why fellow journalists and editors are silent. Are they really hoping to avoid humiliation by Informer when their time comes? If they ever mutter against the government or the political-media elite lined with Vučić?” wrote Tamara Skrozza in the article “Media cowardly silent on the discrediting of journalists led by Informer and Pink.”
Ivan Tasovac, The Minister of Culture and Information
The Minister of Culture and Information, Ivan Tasovac, said that the ministry will react as soon as they determine whether there was a violation of the law in the media campaign run by Informer. “The experts are the ones who will assess whether the law was violated. If so, the ministry will respond by pressing charges against those who violated it,” said Tasovac.
Civil Rights Defenders
“CRD strongly condemns the latest smear campaign being used by pro-governmental media in Serbia against investigative journalists and urges the authorities to ensure respect for freedom of expression and refrain from interfering in the work of independent media in Serbia.”
“The latest campaign instigated by a pro-governmental media outlet has targeted the Editor-in-Chief of KRIK with the sole intention of intimidating and preventing journalists from doing their job. While an open campaign of intimidation against investigative journalists has been ongoing, it intensified in late 2015 with the publishing of a ‘wanted-list of photos’ of Editors-in-Chief of investigative portals on the front page of pro-government media,” said the press release.
Dinko Gruhonjić, NDVD
President of the Independent Journalists’ Association of Vojvodina (NDNV), Dinko Gruhonjic, expressed his support for KRIK and urged the authorities to expose who is wiretapping journalists.
“It is obvious that Informer is a police informant newsroom which is publishing their so-called exclusive news on the basis of information, as one can reasonably suspect, obtained from various secret services which are illegally wiretapping people who are critical of the government and who want to do their job well,” said Gruhonjic for KRIK, adding that Informer exists to only disgrace journalism so people would think journalists are liars.
KRIK will press charges
Continuing its campaign against KRIK, the pro-government tabloid published the article “S&M French spy” in which it openly insults the editor of KRIK Stevan Dojčinović, trying to undermine him and the credibility of the organization.
KRIK will press charges against Dragan Vučićević and Informer.3-17-2016
Redaction Editorial team of Insajder considers that Informer, with its text in which they falsely accuse KRIK and Stevan Dojčević, violated laws on public information.
“We consider Informer as putting pressure on journalists by doing this, which is prohibited by law. It is our opinion that representatives of the government, whose politics and actions Informer defends by targeting different individuals, have a commitment to act publicly and to prevent any other public lynching of any person”, writes Insajder.
Association of Online Media (AOM)
Association of Online Media (AOM) put out a statement in which they vehemently protest this new, obviously organized series of attacks against the research portal KRIK, led by pro-governmental media over the last two days.
“We remind you that KRIK, a member and one of the founders of the Association of Online Media, is constantly a target of attacks and lies, almost from its founding, and these attacks are led by media which are close to government: Informer, Pink and Studio B. It is obvious that the purpose of these attacks is suppression of freedom of the media in general and research centers which raise questions regarding corruption at the top of the government,” the statement said. They also added their concern that the chief editor of Informer is aware of what is KRIK researching at every moment, which raises the question of government institutions “leaking information.” AOM questioned government authorities: who gave the chief editor of Informer Dragan Vučićević that data and how did that information get to him?
Independent Journalist’s Association of Serbia (IJAS)
IJAS strongly criticized the tabloid Informer on its hunt against KRIK, and stressed its concern about the accusations against Editor Stevan Dojčinović and the call for his lynching and the endangering of his safety. IJAS called for the boycott of this tabloid and insisted that the Ministry of Internal Affairs investigate the case and announce to the public whether certain information in Informer’s published texts came from government institutions.
“It is important to determine how this tabloid came in possession of data which were sent exclusively to KRIK journalists. MUP and authorities are obligated to determine if Dojčinović and the journalists of KRIK are being monitored and under surveillance,” said the statement.
Informer: “Mafia strikes on the Vučić family”
The pro-government tabloid Informer, in the text “Mafia strikes on the Vučić family”, made an accusation which was also put forward by Dragan Vučićević during his appearance on TV Pink. The accusation claims that KRIK and its editor Stevan Dojčinović are preparing to publish false information about the real-estate of the family of the Prime Minister of Serbia, with the purpose of “making Vučić quit the position of Prime Minister and suggest somebody else for the position.”3-16-2016
Dragan Vučićević, editor of the pro-government tabloid Informer
Vučićević falsely accused and attacked KRIK and Editor Stevan Dojčinović during a morning television program on the television station Pink.
“The main man of KRIK, that investigative journalism organization, is a man who is falsely represented as a journalist. His name is Stevan Dojčinović, he gets all of his information from mobsters and criminals. But behind that are much more powerful centers of power. All information against Vučić is coming from Sarajevo, from a man called Drew Sullivan. Some informed people say that he works for foreign, western intelligence services. The information would provoke a situation of chaos and make Vučić out to be a criminal who has something that he actually doesn’t. So, they will attack his family by saying that his father, his mother and his brother have disproportional and an enormous amounts of property. They are ‘chasers’. What is the purpose of them? They don’t really care about the facts,” said Vučićević.
KRIK published a press release in which they claim that for every research article written by them they have documentation.
“In the study of politicians’ belongings, which was announced ten days ago by KRIK, we will also investigate the belongings of family members (related entities) of key government officials, including the prime minister. That is a legitimate topic for every journalist around the world. Vučićević detailed KRIK’s current investigations – the question is who so carefully supervised KRIK’s work that he knew the details of unpublished stories?”