CPJ Alert: German journalists killed in Kosovo

June 14, 1999 — Two German journalists on assignment in Kosovo were fatally shot by unidentified gunmen on June 13 just outside Dulje, some 25 miles south of the provincial capital Pristina.

Veteran photographer Volker Kraemer, 56, died on the scene, while 35-year-old Gabriel Gruener, an experienced Balkans correspondent, expired en route to a hospital in Tetova, Macedonia. The two journalists worked for the Hamburg-based  Stern newsweekly.

Kraemer, Gruener and their interpreter Senol Alit, an Albanian from Macedonia, were returning by car to Macedonia to file the news they had collected that day when they encountered sniper fire coming from a distance, according to Oliver Herrgesell, Stern’s deputy editor. Herrgesell said many details remain unclear, but from some accounts it appeared they may have lost their way outside of Dulje. Medics from Medicins sans Frontieres who arrived at the scene sometime after the shootings, said the journalists had apparently tried to flee on foot from their car and were hit from long-range on the road. Herrgesell said Kraemer was killed instantly with a shot in the head, while Gruener was hit in the abdomen, and remained conscious when the medics arrived, said Herrgesell. He died in a helicopter en route to a hospital in Tetova, Macedonia. The body fo Alit, who was driving their car, was recovered on June 15.

Herrgesell said no details were yet available on the vehicle the journalists had been using, including whether it was clearly marked as a press vehicle.

The German government retracted a report Monday that the body of a third German journalist had been found in the vicinity.

David Chater, a British Sky Television correspondent, told reporters he was fired upon by snipers on June 14 in Prizren, where a violent standoff between mainly German and Dutch NATO peacekeepers and Serb paramilitaries and police had taken place over the last two days.

CPJ is still investigating the killings, which at the least reveal the dangers for all journalists venturing into Kosovo to cover implementation of the recent peace settlement. “These tragic killings underscore the need for journalists covering Kosovo to take necessary safety precautions when entering the province,” said Ann K. Cooper, CPJ’s executive director. “We urge all journalists to wear bullet-proof vests and try to use armored vehicles, or travel with secure convoys when possible,” said Cooper.

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