Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Comment: Imprisoned By the Truth

Father Sava, the "Internet monk" and renowned moderate on Kosovo's Serbian National Council, writes exclusively to IWPR with his comments on the seven-year prison sentence handed down to Kraljevo journalist Miroslav Filipovic.
By Father Sava

The case of journalist Miroslav Filipovic, sentenced by the grace of God before a military court in Nis, is only one example in these troubled times of the blatant and shameless state repression directed against the free media and those journalists who try to defeat lies and injustice with truth.

Miroslav Filipovic's sin and guilt lie in his efforts to fulfil his professional and journalistic duty, in his attempt above all to speak aloud on those difficult truths. Truths which should awaken the sleeping conscience of the Serbian nation, and especially her indifferent intelligentsia.

The regime's reaction was cruel and without compromise. Miroslav Filipovic was led before a military court, branded a "traitor" and imprisoned without his guilt being clearly proven. Genuine journalism is sufficient reason in today's Serbia for one to be declared a foreign agent and an enemy of the state. Everything that fails to fit the narrow moulds of the narrow-minded, everything that fails to curry favour with the powers that be, represents a reactionary and tragic conspiracy against "the only free state in Europe."

Why does the regime fear the truth and the free media so much?

Precisely because it is independent and professional journalism which exposes the crimes of the corrupt and irresponsible holders of power. There are no taboo topics for a conscientious and responsible journalist, only a duty towards the truth and the readers. Readers who need not only to be informed about events, but to be provoked into making sacrifices and fighting with greater resolve for that truth.

Miroslav Filipovic is just such a journalist. His reports are not only objective and professional, but also provocative in a positive sense and represent a challenge to the public to take a more resolute stand towards the controversial issues of our every day life.

His reports are not sensationalist, but address serious problems, for which we all shoulder some responsibility, if only through our silence and passivity.

These years have seen way to many events about which the final word has yet to be spoken. And that will take not months, but years of deep reconsideration, repentance and change of heart by the entire nation.

While Miroslav sits in prison, an ill man, writing his personal testimony on the profound injustice of a regime which tries to imprison the free word in Serbia, it is shocking that the public all to easily forget those who confirm their own words at great personal risk and suffering.

Many journalistic colleagues and human rights activists have fallen silent much too quickly while the painful drama of Filipovic and his family unfolds before them.

It is all too easily forgotten that the prison housing Miroslav Filipovic is not just in Nis. It is the prison in every town across humiliated Serbia, a country transformed into a national dungeon, where thought, spirit and conscience are locked away by the frenzied personal ambition of a suicidal ruling couple.

These inarticulate words are testimony to my sincere feelings and solidarity with a man who has invested not only his journalistic talent and courage, but also his life and health to the future of a democratic and free Serbia.

Father Sava is a member of the Serbian National Council, whose reports have highlighted the existence of moderate voices among the Serbian community in Kosovo.