Belgrade – Serbian journalist groups have condemned an award to a biographer who has staunchly defended Ratko Madic, the Bosnian Serb commander serving time for the 1995 Srebrenica genocide and other war crimes.
It is the latest in a string of controversies in Serbia over the glorification of war criminals and apologist accounts of their roles in the 1990s' wars during the break-up of Yugoslavia.
On Tuesday, Mladic biographer Ljiljana Bulatovic Medic was awarded the “Golden Quill” prize from the Journalists’ Association of Vojvodina for her contribution to the field.
Independent journalists baulked at the celebration of a writer who has penned several books defending Mladic, including one titled: Srebrenica, a lie and hoax imposed on the Serbian people.
Serb forces under Mladic’s command slaughtered about 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia, the worst atrocity on European soil since World War Two.
In a joint statement, the Independent Journalists' Associations of Vojvodina and Serbia condemned the recognition of a “denier of war crimes, ethnic cleansing and genocide”.
“Serbia has never removed war propagandists who wrongly present themselves as journalists [and who] have never been prosecuted for their actions,” the journalist groups said in a statement quoted by Beta news agency.
“Ljiljana Bulatovic Medic is certainly one of them and continues to spread hatred in the region today,” the statement said.
When asked for any response to the criticism, Medic said: “I would only like those who condemn me to come and tell me what I wrote that was false,” adding that she felt vindicated by the prize.
Mladic, who is serving a life sentence in a Dutch prison, has never admitted his guilt and is still considered a hero by many Serbs in Bosnia and Serbia.
In October, Serbia’s defence ministry drew criticism from rights groups for publishing a book by a former army chief of staff who is in prison for war crimes in Kosovo.
That same month a court fined eight activists for disrupting an event in which the ruling Serbian Progressive Party invited an army officer convicted of war crimes in Croatia.
The protesters had interrupted the event last January by unfurling a banner that said: “Criminals should shut up so we can talk about victims.”