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OSCE Media Freedom Representative and OSCE Head of Mission to Serbia dismayed by acquittals in Ćuruvija murder case

VIENNA/BELGRADE, 2 February 2024 – The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Teresa Ribeiro, and the Head of the OSCE Mission to Serbia, Jan Braathu, expressed their dismay over today’s verdict of the Belgrade Appellate Court. In this verdict, all defendants were acquitted, leaving the 1999 murder of Serbian journalist Slavko Ćuruvija unresolved. This latest verdict significantly deviates from the two previous first-instance court decisions, which had resulted in extensive prison sentences for the defendants.

“The fact that this case still remains unresolved, almost 25 years after this courageous journalist was murdered, is very disturbing,” stated Ribeiro. “Impunity for this heinous crime is not only extremely painful for Ćuruvija’s family and colleagues, but also deeply disappointing for the whole of Serbian society. The true test of a rule-of-law based society is how it delivers justice, especially to those who put themselves at risk to uphold the values of a free press.”

Today’s announcement of the verdict comes after years of intensive work by the Government of Serbia-appointed Commission for the Investigation of Unresolved Murders of Journalists, established in 2013, and of the Prosecutor's Office, to finally bring a resolution to this crime in the pursuit of justice.

“Impunity for crimes against journalists in any society undermines the safety of journalists and media freedom. It also creates a negative public perception of the delivery of justice and due process. The Mission has always been steadfast in working with all our partners – Government authorities, the Permanent Working Group on Safety of Journalists, law enforcement, media and journalist associations, civil society, and academia – on upholding OSCE commitments and implementing the Government of Serbia’s Media Strategy 2020-2025 and legislation in line with international standards that would improve the safety of journalists and media freedom in Serbia,” added Braathu.

Ribeiro and Braathu recalled the commitment undertaken by all 57 OSCE participating States, including Serbia, in the 2018 OSCE Milan Ministerial Council Decision on the Safety of Journalists, to “take effective measures to end impunity for crimes committed against journalists”.  Today's verdict raises serious rule of law questions, leaving the country without accountability and justice for the murder of journalist Slavko Ćuruvija.