BELGRADE: A Serbian court on Monday jailed a former mayor for five years for ordering an arson attack on the home of a journalist investigating corruption, the state-run RTS television said.

The Balkan country is under pressure to improve press freedoms and safety for journalists in order to move forward with its ambition to join the European Union.

In a retrial, the Belgrade court found Dragoljub Simonovic, former mayor of Grocka and a member of the ruling SNS party, guilty of ordering the attack on journalist Milan Jovanovic's house, RTS said

Jovanovic, who says he was targeted for investigating corruption cases linked to the mayor, was at home with his wife at the time of the 2018 attack, but managed to escape through a window.

Simonovic rejected all the charges.

During the first trial, he was sentenced in 2021 to four years and three months in jail.

But, an appeals court ordered a retrial for procedural reasons.

As in the first trial, three other defendants were tried along with Simonovic, including the one who threw the Molotov cocktail at the journalist's home, Aleksandar Marinkovic, and were all also found guilty.

Marinkovic, who was tried in absentia, was handed a four-and-a-half-year prison term.

The other two men were sentenced to four and three and a half years in jail each.

In Serbia, where reporters have reason to fear for their lives, especially those investigating crime and corruption, progress to improve media freedoms has been slow.

The EU said in an October report that “cases of threats and violence against journalists remain a concern” in the country. - AFP