Zoran Čegar is suspended from the duty of the head of the Uniformed Police Division of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FBiH).
According to the FBiH Police Administration (FUP), for the sake of the protection of legality, the details of the disciplinary proceedings against Čegar cannot be made public, hence the duration of his suspension remains unknown.
The suspension decision was made after the journalists of the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIN) featured a story about Čegar illegally acquiring real estate in Bosnia and Herzegovina and failing to inform the FUP about the criminal proceedings against him in Croatia. Čegar’s trial began at the end of October in Dubrovnik.
After the trial, he insulted and cursed CIN journalists covering this process who were standing in front of the Municipal Court, threatening the female journalist twice to rip her throat out. On the same day, the journalists reported these threats to the local police, and then to the Cantonal Police in Sarajevo and the FUP Professional Standards Unit. The attacks and the discoveries of the journalistic investigation were also reported to the Sarajevo Canton Prosecutor’s Office.
This was the second case of threats directed at CIN journalists in twenty days. In early October, in a telephone conversation with the same journalist, Čegar uttered a series of profanities, threatening the journalist that if she called him again, he would come to the place where she was calling him from. These threats were also reported to the police.
Čegar was invited to an interview to comment on the discoveries of CIN journalists, but he rudely declined. During that telephone conversation, he said, alluding to his position, that various people kept him informed about journalists’ whereabouts and work: “I know everything, I’m not running a tobacco shop!”
CIN released a story about Čegar registering in the Cadastre of Ilijaš Municipality as the owner of someone else’s land by presenting documentation notarized in Loznica, which the Public Notary Chamber of Serbia described as “a gross forgery”. Also, CIN reporters discovered that he was accused of fraud in Croatia and is about to sit trial before the Municipal Court in Dubrovnik. The State Attorney’s Office in Dubrovnik charged Čegar with defrauding the boat and car rental company “Prožura” from the island of Mljet for EUR 20,000. He kept the information about the indictment from the FUP.
Following the release of the investigative story and information about the attacks on journalists, the FBiH Minister of the Interior (FMUP), Aljoša Čampara, requested the suspension of the head of the FBiHPA Uniformed Police Division. He claimed he did so due to threats to journalists, falsifying documents, and a fraud indictment filed against Čegar.
In parallel, the FUP announced that following the information released in the media, an internal investigation was launched against a high-ranking police officer who was “adversely related and linked to the incriminated persons”.
The decision on the suspension was signed by the deputy director of the FUP, Ensad Korman, who appointed Latif Kabaš, the former head of the FUP Property Protection Department in the Uniformed Police Division, in Čegar’s place.
Many domestic and international institutions condemned the attacks and threats the high-ranking police officer Čegar directed at CIN journalists.
The attack on journalists was registered in the “Mapping Media Freedom” database of the European Center for Press and Media Freedom. This database documents press and media freedom violations across Europe, and makes the record of documented incidents publicly accessible.
The latest in the series of condemnations is an open letter from the European Parliament signed by 21 representatives. In their address, they strongly condemned Čegar’s attack on journalists in front of the Municipal Court in Dubrovnik and called on the European Commission to also condemn this act and to request the protection of journalists.
The Association “BH novinari” called on the authorities to immediately sanction the police officer Čegar for threatening CIN journalists.
“Such monstrous threats and insults to journalists come from a high-ranking person in the police hierarchy, who should be responsible for law enforcement and protecting citizens from all kinds of brutality, physical and verbal attacks, and not be the one who will attack and threaten!”, says the announcement of the Association.
The Press Council of BiH also reacted, strongly condemning the attacks on CIN journalists: “Preventing journalists from performing their duty, especially in such a harsh manner, is to be vehemently condemned.”
“Safe Journalists Network”, the regional platform for advocating media freedom and journalists’ safety in the Western Balkans, not only condemned these incidents but also indicated that they will inform thereon the relevant domestic and international institutions, while Reporters Without Borders urged that Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina must ensure the protection of journalists.
The news about the attack on CIN journalists was reported by many media and television stations in BiH and the region, but also in the world.