Reporters at N1 Belgrade received on Monday a threatening letter which said that their office would be blown up and their families murdered, N1 reported.
“Do you have families... you’re killing our children and grandchildren, and you’re not aware that if it comes to that, your building will be the first to be blown up, and you may even lose the ones closest to you. That’s why we, the veterans, are warning you not to play with others’ fates, because your fate is in our hands,” the letter said.
The letter was signed “Belgrade Veterans of 1999 War," an association of veterans of the 1998-99 Kosovo War which pitted the Belgrade government then led by Slobodan Milosevic against the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) which fought for the secession of Kosovo from Serbia. The conflict ended after a NATO air campaign bombed targets across Serbia and a peace treaty was signed, which then paved the way to interim civilian administration in Kosovo.
A membership card of the Serbia War Veterans’ Association was attached to the letter, but the leader of the association, Zeljko Vukelic, said the organisation had nothing to do with the incident, and called on police to fully investigate the threats received by N1.
Kosovo, which is majority populated by ethnic Albanians, with an ethnic Serb minority, declared independence from Serbia in 2008. Belgrade never recognised the decision, and officially still considers Kosovo a province of Serbia in spite of having no de facto authority there, with the exception of a Serb-populated enclave in the very north of Kosovo.
Kosovo's is recognised today by 23 out of 28 EU member states, including ex-Yugoslav nations of Croatia and Slovenia, and around half of 193 UN members. Out of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, US, UK, and France recognise Kosovo, while China and Russia don't.
The issue of Kosovo and its recognition has since evolved into a major topic for Serbia's internal and foreign policy, with Belgrade investing diplomatic efforts to this day to prevent or revoke recognition of Kosovo abroad, and Kosovo actively lobbying for membership in international organisations and blocs.
Days before the threats to N1 reporters, Milenko Jovanov, deputy leader of the ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS), headed by Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, tweeted accusations of N1 television's alleged bias against the government and accused the channel of recognising Kosovo as a separate country.
The tweet included an attached screenshot of a weather forecast aired by N1 showing a satellite image of Serbia and Kosovo. However, in all its graphics and maps, N1 television treats Kosovo in line with the UN Security Council resolution 1244 passed in 1999, which remained neutral regarding the status of Kosovo. This means that Serbia and Kosovo are shown in the same colour, with a dotted line representing the demarcation between the two, as opposed to a solid line separating sovereign states.
N1 reporters in Serbia are routinely targeted on social media and accused of “spreading anti-Serbia propaganda," with critics branding them as “servants of globalism, Soros, and the Clinton criminal gang.”
The letter also came amid an ongoing series of increasingly large anti-government protests held every Saturday which started in Belgrade two months ago and have in the meantime spread to over 50 other towns across Serbia.