Veran Matic, chairman of the Commission for Investigating Murders of Journalists, spoke for Prva TV in Belgrade on Monday morning about the arrest of Dragoljub Simonovic.
Dragoljub Simonovic, mayor of Grocka municipality and senior official of the ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) is suspected of ordering a fire to be started on the property of Milan Jovanovic, a journalist of the local Zig Info website. The arson attack happened on December 12, 2018.
“If he has been arrested, there is evidence and there are a lot of indications that Simonovic did it,” Matic said. Noting that Simonovic was a “target” of the website’s investigative articles, Matic added that he “probably deserves to be prosecuted for the deeds that journalist Jovanovic wrote about.”
Matic also assessed the atmosphere created in society has contributed to the arrest of Dragoljub Simonovic, and that the meeting between the President of Serbia and SNS leader, Aleksandar Vucic, with representatives of the Reporters Without Borders was also significant.
“Vucic made promises and offered cooperation, and these are good signals that we all need to make use of,” Matic underlined. He added that journalistic solidarity has also been expressed, as journalists pressured the public and institutions, but also took over certain stories of Jovanovic to continue investigating them.
Matic emphasized more should be done on prevention, so as not to have the similar cases in future, and that there should be effective reactions whenever there are indications violence would occur.
Simonovic, who is suspected of committing the crime of “causing general danger in incitement”, was placed under detention for up to 30 days on Sunday, in order not to influence witnesses, destroy evidence and repeat the crime.
He was arrested on January 25, while more than a month earlier, suspected perpetrator Aleksandar Marinkovic, organizer of the arson Igor Novakovic and helper Bojana Cvetkovic-Sijaki had also been detained.