Last Night

Blackout

Sometime after midnight last night, I awoke to find police officers in my bedroom. The senior officer claimed they’d entered because the front door to my apartment had been left wide open.

While I was still in bed, they asked me for my passport and other documentation. I told them I needed to get dressed first, and they left my bedroom without closing the door. They stood outside the doorway, meaning I had no privacy while putting my clothes on. Both of the officers who stayed behind to question me were men.

Once I was dressed, we moved into the dining room, where they asked me a series of questions: They repeatedly asked me why I was in Serbia. They also asked how long I’d been in Serbia, and when I’d visited Serbia for the first time. They knew details about my personal life; for instance, they asked if my fiance, Srecko Sekeljic, was a journalist too.

The senior officer again asked to see my passport and documents, which I said I needed to find in my file folder that holds all of my important paperwork. At this point they said “nevermind”. As they left, the senior officer said, “Make sure you keep your door closed”.

Of course, it’s entirely possible that the police had a good reason to investigate something else that had nothing to do with me: Maybe there had been a burglary in the building, or maybe some other crime had been committed in an apartment nearby. But at no time did the officers ask any relevant questions that might have indicated that a legitimate crime had taken place, or provide any rationale for entering my bedroom. And all of the questions they asked concerned my stay in Serbia.

In recent weeks, we’ve published articles about Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic’s consolidation of power, the crisis in north Kosovo, and the dismissal of several high-ranking Serbian military officials. Perhaps more significantly, we published an article about possible corruption in the Serbian Import and Export Promotion Agency (SIEPA), after receiving hundreds of leaks from the Serbian government’s own servers.

Our SIEPA piece also criticized the manner in which media outlets like Balkanist are often leaked information about high-level corruption prior to a legal investigation. Within minutes of publishing the SIEPA article, the electricity in our apartment was cut. Since every other apartment in our building still had electricity, we visited the power company to ask what had happened. They told us that a man had been sent to our address to cut the electricity in our apartment, and apologized for the “mistake”, as we had paid all of our bills in advance. They also told us that they would not be able to turn our power back on for three days.

We’ve called the police about last night’s events, and are still waiting to hear back from them. We’re still hoping that all of this was some kind of a mistake or misunderstanding. Thank you to all of our wonderful friends and readers for your kind support. It has meant the world to us.

Read our response to the Interior Ministry’s statement about this event. 

Lily has been the publisher, co-founder and editor-in-chief of Balkanist since it launched in the fall of 2013. She ran the magazine when it was still headquartered in Belgrade, Serbia, and has continued to run it with the help of a small but trusted international team after Balkanist moved to Odessa, Ukraine in May 2014. She was educated at UC Berkeley and the LSE. Follow her on Instagram: http://instagram.com/balkanist/