SafeJournalists: Croatian journalist targeted by the former paramilitary head and Serbian media

Anja Kozul, journalist of the “Novosti”, Croatian and Serbian-language weekly published by the Serb National Council (SNV) in Croatia, has been subjected to a smear campaign and a surge of insults by the Serbian paramilitary unit founder, his followers and some Serbian media. Kozul has been targeted for her article about Arnaud Gouillon, a former member of the French extreme right-wing Islamophobic organization “Identitarian Bloc” and a new official appointed by the Serbian Government.

On December 1, Kozul published an article entitled “From an Islamophobe to a state official” that deals with Arnaud Gouillon appointment as a Head of the Directorate for Cooperation with the Diaspora and Serbs in the region in the Serbian Government. Arnaud Gouillon, a former member of “Identitarian Bloc” moved to Serbia in 2004 and advocated for Serbs who live in Kosovo.

After the text was published, Dragoslav Bokan, the founder of the Serbian paramilitary unit “White Eagles”, used Facebook to target Kozul. Some of his posts include: “It simply cannot and will not pass without consequences. Remember her face forever and don’t let her play a Serbian woman after this” and “She is our enemy, a freak and a traitor, the poorest one – who does everything she is told for a handful of kunas, in all poses and whenever her bosses from the chess quasi-state want her”. Bokan also wrote that Kozul should be banned from entering Serbia and that her crime can’t go unpunished. These messages triggered a surge of insulting comments and threats against Kozul.

Serbia’s dailies “Vecernje Novosti” and “Kurir” joined the campaign against Kozul and “Novosti”. “Vecernje Novosti” published an inflammatory column entitled “Are there any Serbs in SNV in which Kozul is criticized because “In addition to all the evils that are happening to Serbs in Croatia, the appointment of Arnaud Gouillon is a problem for her.” The Serbian tabloid Kurir also criticized the publication of the text about Gouillon.

Speaking to SafeJournalists Anja Kozul said that she had never experienced anything like this before, although she is aware of everything that a journalistic job brings with it.  “I consider this an attack on my work and my identity as a Serbian woman from Croatia, but the most frightening for me is the gender dimension of the attack; the motive for the attack was political, and in the end, it came to commenting my physical appearance!” – said Kozul.

SafeJournalist Network member, Croatian Journalists’ Association announced that Kozul was subjected to worst threats and insults just because she had done her job, calling for condemnation of the campaign and offered her any support she may need.

SafeJournalists Network, representing more than 8,200 media professionals in the Western Balkans, joins its member CJA in condemning the smear campaign, insults and threats to journalist Anja Kozul. We call for both the Croatian and Serbian authorities to investigate this case in more detail to determine if Bokan, his followers and two Serbian dailies have endangered Kozul safety and act upon the finidngs. At the same time SafeJournalists Network calls on Croatian authorities to provide necessary protection to her.  In addition, SafeJournalists Network member from Serbia, the Independent Journalists Association of Serbia will submit a complaint to the Serbian Press Council to etermine accountability of “Vecernje Novosti” and “Kurir” dailies.

SafeJournalists Network will inform relevant national and international stakeholders about this case.

Each attack on journalists is an attack on public interest, democracy and rights of all citizens.

Skopje – Belgrade – Podgorica – Pristina – Sarajevo – Zagreb, 10.12.2020.

Association of Journalists of Kosovo

Association of Journalists of Macedonia

BH Journalists Association

Croatian Journalists’ Association

Independent Journalists Association of Serbia

Trade Union of Media of Montenegro

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