PEN International © 2017
Terms & Conditions | Privacy Statement

Serbia: Investigate death threats against writer Marko Vidojković and hold those responsible to account

Thursday 12 January 2023 - 6:00am

Writer Marko Vidojković

The Serbian authorities should conduct a prompt and thorough investigation into all threats made to writer and journalist Marko Vidojković and ensure his safety, PEN International and Serbian PEN said today. Those responsible must be brought to justice. PEN International and Serbian PEN further call on the Serbian authorities to prevent and protect against threats and violence against writers and journalists, including by publicly condemning all attacks.

PEN International and Serbian PEN express grave concerns about the death threats against writer and journalist Marko Vidojković, which have intensified since the publication of best-selling novel Djubre (Trash), in September 2020. Vidojković reported receiving over 40 death threats last year, resulting in only two prosecutions and convictions. An outspoken writer and journalist, Vidojković is known for his stance critical towards the Serbian authorities. Vidojković reported being publicly smeared on several occasions by politicians from Serbia’s ruling party, including Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić and Prime Minister Ana Brnabić, and being routinely branded a ‘traitor’ by pro-government outlets. Already in June 2021, Serbian PEN, condemning increasing pressures on the media and journalists in the country, called on the relevant authorities to consider Marko Vidojković’s case with due diligence, find the perpetrators and ensure his safety.

Ma Thida, Chair of PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee, said:

‘PEN International utterly condemns the death threats against Marko Vidojković and urges the Serbian authorities to take all the necessary steps to identify those responsible and hold them to account. His safety and that of his family must be prioritized.

The continuing threats against Vidojković come in the wake of sustained attacks against writers and journalists in Serbia, orchestrated by both state and non-state actors, who aim to silence their work and critical reporting.

The Serbian authorities must stop stigmatizing critical voices. Instead, they should do everything in their power to ensure the protection of writers and journalists and prevent further attacks, including by publicly condemning all threats, thoroughly investigating all cases, and creating an environment conducive to media pluralism.’

Additional information

Marko Vidojković, 47, is a writer, journalist, and TV host from Serbia, who regularly comments on political and societal issues, including in his podcast Dobar, Los, Zao (The Good, the Bad and the Evil). He contributes to the daily independent newspaper Danas, which in November 2022 received a threatening email drawing a comparison between Danas’ staff and killed journalists of the French satirical paper Charlie Hebdo. Vidojković’s dystopian novel Djubre (Trash) focuses on corruption and attracted the ire of pro-government media and members of the public. Anonymous threats depicted him being burned or beaten to death, hanged, decapitated, having his tongue cut out, and having his arms broken so he could no longer write. In June 2021, Teresa Ribeiro, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, called for an immediate investigation into the death threats directed at Vidojković, highlighting the risks that online violence poses to the safety of journalists and their ability to carry out their work, free from self-censorship. Vidojković further told PEN International he was facing at least two abusive lawsuits from public officials.

Scores of writers and journalists in Serbia have reported being targeted by serious threats in recent months, increasing fears for their safety. The 2022 annual report of the Council of Europe’s Platform to Promote the Protection of Journalism and Safety of Journalists – to which PEN International is a partner organisation – documented scores of alerts concerning harassment and intimidation of journalists in Serbia, highlighting their strong chilling effect. The report further stressed how abusive lawsuits are common tactics against independent media in Serbia. It called on all members of the Council of Europe – including Serbia – to implement the landmark Council of Europe’s Recommendation on the protection of journalism and safety of journalists and other media actors (CM/Rec(2016)4), and to take all necessary measures to protect, prevent and effectively prosecute those responsible for threats and attacks against journalists.

The statement is endorsed by Armãn PEN, PEN Centre of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatian PEN, and PEN Slovenia.

For further details contact Aurélia Dondo at PEN International, Koops Mill, 162-164 Abbey Street, London, SE1 2AN, UK Tel: +44 (0) 20 7405 0338 Fax +44 (0) 20 7405 0339 e-mail: Aurelia.dondo@pen-international.org