CPJ Joins Press Freedom Community Protest against NATO Bombing of Media Targets in Belgrade, Kosovar Albanian Journalist tells of Expulsion from Pristina, German TV Correspondent Missing in Yugoslavia.

April 22, 1999 — CPJ has joined the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and other press freedom groups in condemning the predawn April 21 NATO air attack that knocked three television channels in Belgrade off the air. CPJ and other members of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX) signed the IFJ’s April 21 letter to NATO Secretary General Javier Solana protesting the bombing of commercial broadcast outlets. NATO targeted a 20-story office building in the Yugoslav capital that contained the broadcast facilities of TV Pink, BK TV and TV Kosova, the latter a station owned by President Milosevic’s daughter, Marija. The letter expresses concern about NATO’s policy reversal targeting civilian broadcast facilities, which jeopardizes the safety of all journalists working in Yugoslavia. NATO has so far hit up to a dozen television transmitters in Kosovo and Vojvodina.

During a visit to CPJ’s New York office on April 19, Kosovar Albanian journalist Aferdita Kelmendi described how Serbian paramilitaries forced her to leave Pristina on March 29 after hiding for five days in various hideaways throughout the city. “We knew that as journalists we would be a target,” said Kelmendi, who served as director of Pristina’s Radio 21, one of only three independent broadcast media outlets in Kosovo, all now shut down by Serbian authorities. Kelmendi said she hid nearby and watched as Serbian police ransacked Radio 21’s studios shortly before she and her family were ordered to leave Pristina immediately and head to Macedonia. Kelmendi and six family members waited at the border with thousands of other deportees for three days without any food before they were allowed into Macedonia. Since that harrowing experience, Kelmendi has been trying to locate her colleagues and is deeply concerned for their safety. She has been unable to confirm a Deutche Welle radio report that one of her correspondents, Gasmin Berisha, had been killed along with his father and brother in the Kosovo town of Suva Reka. Kelmendi plans to resume Radio 21 broadcasts over the internet from her new temporary base in Skopje as a service to her former listeners now in exile, whom she said “desperately need information from their own newspaper or radio station because they trust us.”

Hans-Peter “Pit” Schnitzler, a correspondent for Germany’s SAT-1 television station, has been reported missing since April 16. His editors say they lost contact with their 56-year-old southeast Europe correspondent after he left Belgrade for the Croatian border. Schnitzler decided to leave Yugoslavia after his car and equipment were confiscated by Serbian authorities, rendering it difficult for him to continue filing reports from Belgrade. During that attack, Schnitzler was held at gunpoint and forced to turn over his cell phone and PIN number, needed for access to the phone. On April 20, NATO voiced concerns about Schnitzler’s disappearance. Serbian authorities told the Japanese consul in Belgrade, who now represents Germany’s interests in Yugoslavia, that Schnitzler was in good condition, but they refused to disclose why or where he is being held.

Lucia Annunziata, a prominent Italian TV journalist, was detained at the Yugoslav-Croatian border on her way back to Italy on April 16. Annunziata was strip-searched, handcuffed and then taken back to Belgrade, where she was questioned for nearly eight hours about Italy’s role in the NATO air strikes before being expelled from Yugoslavia.

On April 21, Serbian troops in Montenegro arrested Antun Masle, a correspondent for the independent Croatian weekly Globus when he crossed the border from Albania. He is in a Podgorica prison awaiting trial by a military tribunal on espionage charges. On the same day, Serbian troops in the Prevlaka demilitarized zone between Croatia and Montenegro expelled two correspondents from the Croatian weekly Feral Tribune. A half hour later however, Montenegrin guards let the journalists, Danil Tilic and Rino Balan, back in to the republic.

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