Harlem Désir, the OSCE’s representative on freedom of the media, has expressed his concern following the disappearance of Stefan Cvetković, a prominent Serb journalist.
Mr Cvetković’s empty car was found in the small town of Bela Crkva in north-eastern Serbia on June 14 with the doors open and headlights switched on.
Journalists who have tried to contact him have reported that all his mobile phones are turned off.
“I’m deeply worried by Mr Cvetković’s disappearance and urge the Serbian authorities to do their utmost to find him,” said Mr Désir, welcoming the fact that the police have deployed substantial resources and that Serb President Aleksandar Vučić is closely following the case.
Mr Cvetković was reportedly working on a story lately related to the murder of Oliver Ivanović, a politician assassinated in Kosovo in January this year.
Moreover, he has been the subject of several threats in the past. In March last year he was sentenced to two years and three months in prison by a court in Vršac, and given a fine of 2,150,000 million dinars following a lawsuit filed by three local politicians. The verdicts were later annulled by Serbia’s High Court.
Serbia is ranked 76th out of 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders 2018 World Press Freedom Index, after falling ten places as a result of the harassment, threats and attacks to which journalists in the country have been exposed.
President Vucic said on June 15 that Cvetkovic has been found unharmed, and that the investigation into his disappearance had found that many of the hints that suggested he had been kidnapped appeared to have been staged.
“I wish to inform citizens that Stefan Cvetkovic is in our hands, alive and well. He is with the police, and he will stay there for a long time as he has a lot of explaining to do,” Mr Vucic told a press conference in Belgrade.