Serbian Ex-Mayor Convicted Over Arson on Journalist’s Home

A man wearing a fask mask to protect against coronavirus, rides a bicycle by a closed raft restaurant on the banks of Sava river during a sunny, wintery day in Belgrade, Serbia, Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2020. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

BELGRADE, Serbia (AFP) — A court in Serbia Tuesday sentenced a former mayor to more than four years in prison for ordering an arson attack on the home of a journalist who was investigating corruption.

The verdict is a rare case of justice delivered for journalists who have faced violence and threats in the Balkan state, where press freedoms are withering. 

Dragoljub Simonovic, the former mayor of Grocka, outside Belgrade, and a member of the ruling SNS party, was found guilty of ordering the attack on the house of corruption reporter Milan Jovanovic in December 2018. 

He was sentenced to four years and three months in jail, a spokesman for the court in Belgrade told AFP. 

He said the man who threw the Molotov cocktail, Aleksandar Marinkovic, received the same sentence, but in absentia.

Jovanovic, who says he was targeted for investigating graft cases linked to the mayor, was at home with his wife at the time of the attack but managed to escape through a window. 

“I hope that this verdict will be the harbinger of more media freedom in Serbia,” he told AFP, adding that he was “satisfied” with the ruling. 

Serbia is under heavy pressure to improve press freedoms and safety for journalists in order to move forward with its dreams of joining the EU.

But progress has been slow in a country where reporters have reason to fear for their lives, especially those investigating crime and corruption. 

In its last report, the EU said that “cases of threats, intimidation and violence against journalists are still a source of serious concern.”

© Agence France-Presse

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