RTV B92, Serbia.
“Despite all of what happened, despite the genuine mess I had made out of my life, I would continue. The only limits are those you impose on yourself.”
Brankica Stanković is a journalist for TV B92, and editor of investigative program Insider. Since December 2009 she has been living under 24/7 police protection after receiving numerous threats against her life. After years of work in investigative journalism, and after disclosing crime, corruption, and links between mafia, politics, and business that shocked Serbia, the Serbian Ministry of Internal Affairs, in coordination with Security Information Agency completed an official assessment of Stanković’s safety. From that point forward, Stanković cannot go to the store by herself, let alone commute to work, or visit friends alone. She travels everywhere with an escort of at least four police officers.
Since 2009, social media platforms in Serbia have been flooded with insults against Stanković and threats to her safety. Messages from anonymous sources calling her a “whore” and threatening to “blow [her] brains out,” and worse, have been posted through online message boards.
The intensity of threats against Stanković escalated dramatically in late 2009, after she produced a report on TV B92 about the onslaught of hooliganism and ties between hooligans – who incite violence and maintain rivalries with other gangs – and political figures. Stanković revealed in her reporting that hooligans had been used for years as an “army” for political, personal, and often illegal purposes by some in power.
After this report aired, a group of hooligans overwhelmed the crowd at a highly public football game and held up a rubber doll representing Stanković. They kicked and punted it around the stadium and on camera at the nationally televised game, and in the end stabbed it. They shouted that Stanković would end up just like Serbian journalist Slavko Curuvija, who was assassinated in 1999 when someone shot him 17 times.
This incident was the beginning of a nightmare for Stanković, who became the highly public face of revelations about corruption, graft, and organized crime in her country. While the public in Serbia believed that Stanković was jeopardized only by those tied to hooliganism, police discovered that she was targeted by the most notorious criminals in Serbia; members of the group which back participated in the 2003 assassination of the first democratically elected Serbian Prime Minister, Zoran Djindjic.
Several times Stanković has been ordered to pack her bags and temporarily relocate to remote parts of the country, after police assessments that she was not safe in Belgrade. Police discovered that an assassin contracted to kill Stanković had rented an apartment above hers for a short time.
In spite of these circumstances, Stanković has continued to pursue the truth about power and corruption in Serbia.
Follow Brankica Stanković on Twitter: @brankica_st
Photo credit: Dejana Batalović/IWMF