April 12,1999 — The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a nonpartisan orginazation dedicated to the defense of press freedom around the world, is saddened and angered by the cold-blooded assassination of Slavko Curuvija, a publisher and editor in chief of the Belgrade-based daily Dnevni Telegraf and the weekly Evropljanin. Ann Cooper, CPJ’s executive director, called the murder “a cowardly act meant to silence a valiant voice.” “Because of President Milosevic’s disdain for the independent media, we have little confidence that those who committed this crime will be brought to justice,” said Cooper.
According to CPJ sources in Yugoslavia, the murder occured when Curuvija and his wife, Branka Prpa, were returning to their home in central Belgrade from an evening stroll at 4:40 p.m. on April 11. Two men wearing dark clothing and black face masks approached the couple, shot Curuvija several times in the head, and pistol-whipped Prpa.
Dnevni Telegraf, the first private daily in Serbia, was sharply critical of President Slobodan Milosevic’s regime. Since the passage of the Serbian information law on October 20,1998, authorities had hit Curuvija’s newspapers with fines totaling more than US $100,000. On March 8, Curuvija was sentenced to five months in jail for allegedly defaming Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Milovan Bojic. Facing heavy fines, Curuvija moved the newspaper’s operations to Montenegro and smuggled copies into Serbia. He was forced to shut down his operation altogether after the NATO bombing began on March 24.
NATO Bombs RTS Transmission Towers, Montenegro Media Threatened, Baton Haxhiu Is Alive
- On April 8, British Air Commodore David Wilby said that since the Serbian state-run radio and television wer “an instrument of propaganda and repression,” it “is therefore a legitimate target”. The following day, CPJ sent a letter to NATO general secretary Javier Solana asking for clarification of the criteria NATO planned to use to distinguish between “journalists,” who were not targets’ and “propagandists,” who presumably are. CPJ has not received a response. That same day, NATO bombed several television transmission towers. Among those reported to have been hit are the Pristina tower and Belgrades’s northern tower. Pristina is thus effectively cut off from the official news sources, and there are no independent news sources left. The tower in the south of Belgrade is still transmitting while the smaller local television stations with their own transmitters are rebroadcasting state programming to those who depended on the northern tower.
- Independent radio and television stations in Montenegro are increasingly under pressure from the federal government to produce more “patriotic” programming. According to the Association of Independent Broadcasters (ANEM) in Montenegro, the Ministry of Information has sent written orders to all of its members to stop foreign broadcasts such as those from the voice of America and Radio Free Europe. All Montenegran ANEM affiliates have refused to obey the order, with the programming of TV-Montenegro, the state-owned television station. President Milo Djukanovic has posted police around the staion to prevent a takeover by federal troops led by Gen. Milorad Obradovic, who commands federal troops in Montenegro.
- CPJ welcomes the news that Kosovo Albanian editor Baton Haxhiu is alive and well, After NATO and other Western sources reported that Haxhiu, an editor of Koha Ditore, had been murdered, he surfaced in Skoopje, Macedonia, on April 6. After watching a news program on SKY news in which NATO declared him dead, Haxhiu spent 12 days hiding in basements in Kosovo, until he could escape into Macedoonia. Chrystyna Lapychak, CPJ’s program coordinator for Central and Eastern Europe and the republics of the former Soviet Union said, “We are delighted that Haxhiu is still with us and glad to finally have some good news.”
- Radio Liberty reported that Gleb Ovsyannikov, a corespondent for Russian public television, and his video engineer, were expelled from Yugoslavia by government authorities. According to the network, after its “Vesti” program showed the destruction of an Interior Ministry building by a NATO bomb, the journalists were stripped of their visas and forced to leave the country. And on April 4, the Russian NTV network complained that their broadcasts from the region were subjected to military censorship.
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