A former Serbian deputy and mayor of a town on the outskirts of Belgrade, Dragoljub Simonovic, was sentenced on Monday to five years in prison for ordering the burning down of the house of a journalist who had investigated corruption cases, national television (RTS) reported.
This judgment was rendered following a new trial ordered by an appeal court in Belgrade, due to a procedural flaw.
In the first trial, Mr. Simonovic was sentenced in 2021 to four years and three months in prison.
This 64-year-old politician was convicted of having "
incited the other defendants to set fire to the property
" of journalist Milan Jovanovic, who specializes in corruption cases and who published his articles on the information portal "
'No progress' on press freedom
At the material time, in December 2018, Dragoljub Simonovic was the mayor of the small town of Grocka and a senior official of the ruling party (SNS) of Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic.
Milan Jovanovic was in his house, with his wife, when attackers set it on fire with Molotov cocktails.
They managed to escape through a window.
The journalist had repeatedly claimed to have been the victim of this attack because of his articles on the corruption cases concerning the ex-mayor.
Three months later, Dragoljub Simonovic had resigned from his functions as mayor and within the SNS.
He was twice elected to the Serbian Parliament in the 2000s. Associations for the defense of press freedom regularly warn of a deterioration in the situation of journalists in Serbia.
In its October 2022 report on the enlargement of the European Union, the European Commission found that “
” on press freedom had been made in Serbia.
Cases of threats and violence against journalists remain worrying
", according to this report.
In addition to Dragoljub Simonovic, three other people were sentenced to terms ranging from three and a half to four and a half years in prison, including Aleksandar Marinkovic, on the run, found guilty of setting fire to the journalist's house.