Seven months after the culmination of the Belgrade Court of Appeal trial for the murder of journalist Slavko Ćuruvija, a final verdict has yet to be formally delivered. However, in the meantime there have been unofficial statements suggesting that a verdict has allegedly been handed down and has acquitted the four accused former members of the State Security service.
“The anticipation and playing with the emotions of people, including family members and colleagues of the late Ćuruvija, is horrific. Rumours have been circulating for months that a verdict has been passed; that someone is keeping it in a drawer for some reason, while elsewhere people who loved Slavko Ćuruvija await the serving of justice,” said Maja Sever, president of the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), speaking for portal Cenzolovka.
The EFJ was among the nine organisations that announced on 11th April – the date marking the anniversary of Ćuruvija’s murder – that the upcoming binding final verdict of the Court of Appeal would be “the most consequential for media freedom and journalism in Serbia’s modern history, and will act as a litmus test for the rule of law and democracy more widely”.
Also speaking for Cenzolovka, Jamie Wiseman of the International Press Institute (IPI) said that an acquittal would deal a fatal blow to media freedom and the fight against impunity for murdering journalists in Serbia.
According to Massimo Moratti, of the think-tank Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso Transeuropa, “an acquittal would be a disappointment”, while it would also indicate that “the system that was created during the 1990s is stronger than today’s system”.
“With each day that passes, it becomes increasingly difficult to understand why justice has not been achieved for the murder of a journalist. Apart from being a symbol of impunity for crimes committed against journalists in Serbia, it is also becoming the definition of the phrase “Justice delayed is justice denied”,” says Pavol Szalai, head of the European Union and Balkans desk at international organisation Reporters Without Borders.
According to Dragan Sekulovski, director of the regional network Safe Journalists, failure to hold the perpetrators accountable could have a horrific impact on journalists and media outlets, leading to them self-censor out of fear for their own safety.
“No cold-blooded murder of a journalist can take place without planning, coordination, money and weapons sourced from someone, and subsequently also a cover-up. If we still, after many years, lack just verdicts for all those responsible for the murder, from top to bottom, that’s not due to a lack of evidence, but rather due to the state being captured,” said journalist Matthew Caruana Galizia, son of murdered Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia and director of the foundation named after his late mother.
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