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Croatian Ban on Bosnian Serb Journalist’s Entry Questioned

Croatian and international journalistic associations questioned a decision to ban Danijel Simic, a journalist from Bosnia’s mainly Serb entity, Republika Srpska, from entering this country on Wednesday.

Maja Sever, president of the European Federation of Journalists, EFJ, said she was “not familiar with the details of this case and what exactly are the accusations due to which the journalist Daniel Simic is not allowed to enter Croatia, I believe we will receive official information”.

“I want to believe that the reason is not only his views, whether we agree or not, or journalistic work,“ Sever told BIRN.

“Closing the borders is certainly not the path that will bring anyone anything, least of all journalists who are under attack anyway; we need to calm the heightened tensions in this region,” she added.

Drago Hedl, vice president of the Croatian Journalists’ Association, said that if Simic was banned from entering Croatia “only because of expressing an opinion that is not in accordance with the principles of Croatian foreign and domestic politics, if that is the only and exclusive reason … of course I am against such a decision”.

“Given that I do not have the best opinion about many moves by the leadership of the Republika Srpska, which I have stated publicly several times, according to that logic I could also expect to be denied entry [there],” Hedl told BIRN.

On Wednesday, Simic revealed that Croatian border police refused him entry at the Batrovci border crossing and that before that he was detained for hours at the border and interrogated by Croatia Security Intelligence Agency, SOA, agents.

He said they were interested in the fact that he had worked in parts of Russian-occupied Ukraine.

Simic called his detention at the border “harassment and illegal” and said the only reason for this was his reporting from Ukraine “and other political views”.

“In Croatia, an EU member state, a journalist was detained and harassed simply because he believed in his right to freedom of thought and expression,” he declared.

When asked about the matter by BIRN, the Croatian Ministry of Interior, MUP,  said: “Border police carry out border control and make decisions on refusing entry to the Republic of Croatia for all persons, applying valid national legislation as well as the Code on Schengen Borders.”

Simic is a president of the Republika Srpska Journalists Union, as well as an editor at the entity’s public broadcaster, RTRS. He was awarded by the Russian Union of Journalists in June this year for his reporting from occupied Ukraine. Since the war in Ukraine started, Simic visited Donbas a few times and reported from the war zone in areas controlled by separatist pro-Russian forces.

Milorad Dodik, president of Republika Srpska, said that Simic’s detention represented “blatant pressure on media freedoms and violations of human rights.

“Republika Srpska recently faced unprecedented pressure from the EU due to the desire to impose accountability for publicly spoken words,” he told the entity’s news agency, SRNA.

Simic was not available for comment after several calls from BIRN.

Bosnia’s security minister, Nenad Nesic, who was appointed to the post as Dodik’s coalition partner, joined Dodik in condemning Croatia. He also called for Croatian journalists “who praise Operation Storm (Oluja)” to be banned from entering Bosnia. He also condemned the lack of reaction from Bosnian journalists associations.

“Is censorship of thought and expression a European standard we aim for and are expected to adhere to? If this is the standard, we should make an effort to ban entry to all journalists from media outlets in Croatia that glorify Operation Storm, the largest ethnic cleansing since World War II,” Nesic said.

The 1995 Croatian military operation overran a breakaway Serbian statelet and triggered the mass flight of its local Serbian population.

Source : Balkan Insight