At the end of last month, the Disciplinary Commission of the FBiH Ministry of Internal Affairs (MUPFBiH) suspended the proceedings against Zoran Čegar until the completion of the criminal investigation conducted against this police official in the prosecutor’s offices in Dubrovnik and Sarajevo.
The head of the FBiH Uniformed Police Sector was to take a hit with disciplinary action for multiple threats and insults aimed at CIN reporters in Sarajevo and Dubrovnik. Čegar’s actions were qualified as a serious violation of official duty, i.e. violation of public order and peace, and particularly rude and abusive conduct that damages the reputation of law enforcement.
After a month and a half, the FBiH Ministry of Internal Affairs Commission decided to stop working on this case because it learned that Čegar is criminally charged in two states. The possibility of suspending disciplinary proceedings in such cases is provided for in the Rulebook on Disciplinary Responsibility of Officials of the FBiH Police Administration (FUP).
The Commission was officially informed that the Dubrovnik Municipal State Attorney’s Office has reasonable suspicions that Čegar committed the criminal offense of threats, and that the Sarajevo Canton Prosecutor’s Office has opened a case against Čegar for the same reason and is currently verifying the allegations from the CIN’s criminal report.
In October 2022, Čegar twice threatened the reporters who investigated how he acquired the valuable property in BiH and Croatia. They tried to get in touch with him on two occasions, but both times he threatened and insulted them. The first time, in a telephone conversation in Sarajevo he uttered a series of profanities and called the reporter a Chetnik, threatening that if she called him again, he would come to “the place where she was calling him from“. Some twenty days later, he even more seriously threatened, humiliated, and insulted CIN reporters in front of the Dubrovnik Municipal Court, Croatia, where he was being tried on fraud charges filed by a private company from Mljet. On that occasion, he threatened the CIN reporter to rip her throat out.
CIN journalists reported the threats to the local police in Sarajevo and Dubrovnik, and then to the FUP Professional Standards Unit.
In early November, after pressure from the domestic public and representatives of international institutions, the FBiH Police Administration (FUP) suspended Čegar.
Disciplinary proceedings against this high-ranking police official was initiated at the beginning of January at the request of the FUP Professional Standards Unit, which established the merits of the CIN journalist’s report.
In February, the Disciplinary Commission held two public hearings. Čegar did not appear on any of them. He sent his lawyer to the first public hearing but he failed to provide him with a valid power of attorney. Čegar again did not appear at the new hearing that took place a few days later. The Commission was informed in writing that he was absent due to health problems. Along with the notification was attached medical documentation, but the Commission rejected it because it was not certified. In the meantime, his lawyer received a power of attorney, but he did not appear at the second hearing because, as he said, he could not prepare a defense due to the client’s health condition.
During the hearing, the disciplinary counsel presented allegations from the CIN’s criminal reports and Čegar’s statement given in the FUP Professional Standards Unit. The Commission members had the opportunity to listen to and review audio and video recordings of the events in Sarajevo and Dubrovnik.
According to the disciplinary counsel, Čegar admitted to have called the CIN reporter a Chetnik in a telephone conversation in Sarajevo, and to have threatened to come to the place where she was calling him from. He explained that he uttered these words to the reporter allegedly provoked by frequent calls and offensive questions.
In his statement about the events before the court in Dubrovnik, Čegar also admitted to have threatened and insulted the CIN reporter. He tried to justify this conduct by presenting a series of untruths. He said he threatened the reporter because she told him that she would “destroy him and his bastard”. He also claimed the CIN reporter called his common-law wife, as well as his lawful wedded wife in Germany, telling her that he had a bastard with an employee, which is why his lawful wife filed for divorce.
Čegar denied insulting the other two CIN reporters in front of the Dubrovnik Municipal court, saying that he did not know them. The disciplinary counsel explained that Čegar’s answers contradict what was seen and heard on the video that was made before the court in Dubrovnik.
Finally, the disciplinary counsel highlighted, among other things, that freedom of the press is one of the greatest values of a democratic society, from which stems the freedom of journalists to present the truth to the public. “When those who threaten and insult journalists are police officers, whose basic tasks should be to enforce the law and protect the safety and freedom of people, and therefore the freedom of journalists and the press is an aggravating factor”, added the counsel.