World News

Serbia editor due to address U.N. graft meeting turned away from UAE

BELGRADE (Reuters) - An editor of a Serbian website that investigates organised crime was denied entry to Abu Dhabi, where he was due to address a U.N. conference on corruption, after being told he had been blacklisted by an unidentified country, the journalist said.

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Stevan Dojcinovic flew in to Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), on Tuesday and was turned back to Belgrade early on Wednesday morning after spending 12 hours at the airport.

“I was told that I had been blacklisted by another country,” Dojcinovic said. “Given close ties between United Arab Emirates and Belgrade, I would not exclude that Serbia had something to do with it.”

There was no immediate response from the UAE’s National Media Council to a Reuters request for comment. Approached by Reuters, the Serbian foreign ministry said it had no one available to comment.

The Association of Independent Journalists in Serbia protested against Dojcinovic’s deportation.

Dojcinovic’s Krik portal mainly writes about alleged links between Serbian politicians and organised crime. It has also written about UAE projects in Serbia.

In 2015 Dojcinovic was banned from entering Russia.

“I am not sure what the reason for either ban was but I am sure it has to do with my job as a journalist,” Dojcinovic told Reuters.

Serbia ranks 90th on a list of 180 countries in the 2019 World Press Freedom Index, compiled by the Reporters Without Borders advocacy group. The UAE ranks 133.

Reporters Without Borders warned earlier this year “the number of attacks on media (in Serbia) is on the rise, including death threats, and inflammatory rhetoric targeting journalists is increasingly coming from the governing officials.”

Sonya Yee, a spokesperson for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, told Reuters in emailed comments that “The UN Office on Drugs and Crime are aware that ... Dojcinovic, was unable to enter the country to attend the 8th Conference of the States Parties to the UN Convention against Corruption (COSP).”

“We do not know the reasons .. and we have made inquiries to the (UAE) authorities about this specific situation.”

Reporting by Ivana Sekularac; additional reporting by Lisa Barrington in Abu Dhabi; Editing by William Maclean