CPJ update: Correspondents Shot in Kosovo; Yugoslav Army Harassment Continues in Montenegro; While Exiled Daily Distributes in Pristina. British journalists injured in Kosovo attack

June 17, 1999 — Two British journalists and their ethnic Albanian interpreter were injured late on June 16 when unidentified gunmen fired at their rental car near the village of Stimjle in southern Kosovo, according to editors at Glasgow’s Daily Record.

The three men, all working for the Daily Record, were heading from Prizren toward Macedonia to refuel when an unidentified man bearing a gun along the road attempted to flag them down, said news editor Gordon Hay. Xherdet Shabani, the interpreter, who is a Macedonian national, insisted they speed up to evade the gunman. Chris Wyatt, a photographer, who was driving the car, complied and sped past the gunman and several other unidentified men. The gunman fired several rounds from his semiautomatic weapon at car¹s rear window, hitting 28-year-old Shabani in the shoulder. Wyatt, 28, and Simon Houston, 30, a reporter, suffered superficial head injuries. Houston was also injured in the arm.

They were treated for their wounds at a British army camp in Stimjle. Shabani was taken to a hospital in Pristina the next day, and he was released following several hours’ treatment.

Hay said the journalists spent the day on June 16 in Prizren talking with fighters from the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), and had expressed doubt that their attacker was affiliated with the guerrilla group. They told Hay that neither the gunman, nor his apparent companions, were wearing uniforms of any kind. The journalists were driving a rental car with Macedonian plates, which could have attracted the gunman, Hay said. Their car had no press markings, and the journalists were not wearing the flak jackets and helmets they had brought with them.

Stern translator found dead near reporters, car

A Macedonian translator traveling with two German journalists killed on June 13 in Kosovo was found dead the next day. German NATO troops discovered the body of Senol Alit near the Stern reporters, rental car outside of Dulje on June 14. They also found a pair of rubber gloves and two spent bullet casings nearby. Serb soldiers guarding the vehicle after the June 13 shooting at first refused the German soldiers access to the area. Alit was fluent in Albanian, Serb, Turkish and German, and was of ethnic Albanian origin, Stern Deputy Editor Oliver Hergesell said.

Koha Ditore distributed in Pristina

Staff members of Koha Ditore distributed the first 5,000 copies of the Albanian-language daily to hit the streets of Pristina on June 14. Serbian police forcibly shut it down on March 24.

Baton Haxhiu, Koha Ditore’s chief editor, delivered the free copies by car from Skopje, Macedonia, where the daily has been printed since it resumed publication in exile on April 22. Haxhiu said the paper would by June 18 increase its overall print run from 52,000 to 85,000 copies. He said that on that day, Koha Ditore will begin distribution in most of the largest towns in Kosovo, including Pristina, Prizren, Djakovica, Decani and Peja.

Five staff journalists expelled to Macedonia during the NATO air campaign have returned to Kosovo to cover developments in the war-shattered province, said Haxhiu. The editor said he visited in Pristina on June 15 with Veton Surroi,  Koha Ditore’s eminent publisher who remained in hiding there since March 24. Haxhiu said Surroi was in good condition.

Haxhiu said he remained concerned about 10 staff journalists who are still missing in the province. Twelve Koha Ditore correspondents reported as missing as of last week turned up as deportees in Albania over the last several days, Haxhiu said. Two others were freed from Serbian detention in Lipljan prison since NATO troops entered the area over the weekend.

Montenegrin publisher interrogated

Miodrag Perovic, the publisher of the independent weekly Monitor in Podgorica, was interrogated on June 10 by Yugoslav military investigators in the Montenegrin capital. Perovic reported that he was treated fairly during the questioning. He is charged with treason under Yugoslavia’s martial law, which still remains in effect, for several editorials calling for greater Montenegrin autonomy. Yugoslav army prosecutors have not yet set a trial date. Perovic agreed to return to Montenegro on June 5 for questioning on the charge after military prosecutors pledged to treat him fairly in the case. If he is convicted, Perovic faces up to 10 years’ incarceration.

Three French journalists detained in Montenegro

Three French journalists from the Courrier des Balkans electronic newsletter were detained by Yugoslav military officers on June 11 in northern Montenegro. Philippe Mirkovic, Laurent Rouy and Jean-Arnault Derens were questioned for eight hours in a local shop before they were transported by military escort to military barracks in Podgorica. They were held and questioned there until 3 p.m. the next day. The journalists said the Yugoslav officer treated them well and returned all of their possessions and equipment, except for their press credentials issued by the Montenegrin information ministry.

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