President Slobodan Milosevic first used the threat of war, then an actual war, and finally international hostility toward his regime to justify the use of government censorship and crippling fines to decimate Serbia’s various independent media.
The press crackdown was particularly brutal in Kosovo, where a 1998 military offensive by the separatist Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) triggered massive Serbian government repression of ethnic Albanians. At the beginning of 1999, Albanian-language media suffered through a series of hostile tax and fire inspections. In March, as NATO air strikes grew imminent, authorities in Belgrade imposed enormous fines on several media outlets under the Serbian Information Law. The law, passed in October 1998, allows the Serb government to fine and ban media outlets deemed to foment “fear, panic, and defeatism.”
After NATO began its bombing campaign, on March 24, Belgrade responded with a massive ethnic-cleansing campaign in Kosovo that swept up the independent press. The offices of Koha Ditore, Kosovo’s leading Albanian-language daily, were ransacked on March 25, and a security guard was killed. Veton Surroi and Baton Haxhiu, the paper’s publisher and editor, were forced into hiding.
In late March, NATO mistakenly announced that Haxhiu had been murdered by Serb forces. After hearing the news of his own demise, Haxhiu fled Kosovo for Macedonia, where he started publishing Koha Ditore in exile. The newspaper served as a lifeline of information for the hundreds of thousands of Kosovar refugees in camps in Macedonia and Albania. In recognition of Haxhiu’s courageous fight for press freedom, CPJ honored him with its 1999 International Press Freedom Award at a ceremony in November. (See article about the awards.)
NATO’s bombing campaign triggered a major crackdown on the Serbian-language press in Belgrade, which was placed under strict censorship for the duration of the war. In the first weeks of the conflict, editors were ordered to submit all publications to a censorship body established by Serbian information minister Aleksandar Vucic. Editors were also summoned to the Information Ministry and presented with a list of officially sanctioned terms to describe the bombing. NATO forces were to be identified as Nazis and Fascists, and bomb attacks were to be described as “murderous destruction,” “criminal aggression,” or a “killing orgy.”
The regime quickly moved against leading independent media, including Radio B92, the flagship station of the national Association of Independent Electronic Media (ANEM) network. The Federal Ministry of Information closed B92 on March 24, alleging that the station was not licensed to broadcast such a powerful signal. That same day, the station’s director, Veran Matic, was detained and questioned for eight hours. A week later, the station’s equipment and studios were turned over to a pro-Milosevic student group, which appropriated B92’s jingles and format. (After the war ended, the original station changed its name to B2-92 and began broadcasting on frequencies loaned by the opposition station Studio B.)
Journalists who refused to comply with the censorship regime were told they would be drafted and sent to Kosovo. Several journalists were arrested, including Nebojsa Ristic, the director of TV Soko in Sokobanja, who was sentenced to a year in prison for displaying a Radio B92 poster in support of press freedom.
Most independent journalists in Belgrade believe that the government ordered the murder of Slavko Curuvija, a prominent publisher, who was gunned down outside his apartment on April 11, the Orthodox Easter. Curuvija, the publisher and editor of the daily Dnevni Telegraf and the weekly magazine Evropljanin (The European), had become extremely critical of the Milosevic regime. He was the only local editor to cease publication rather than submit to censorship. On April 5, six days before two masked gunmen killed Curuvija in Belgrade as he and his wife were returning home from a stroll, state television denounced the publisher as a traitor who supported NATO’s attack.
The Kosovo conflict proved lethal for five journalists. Three Chinese journalists were killed when NATO bombed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade on May 8. In June, two German journalists were shot and killed in Kosovo, apparently by snipers. Several other journalists were seriously injured in similar attacks.
The conflict in Yugoslavia was also a battle for international public opinion in which media were often targets. The Yugoslav government initially expelled all reporters from NATO countries but later allowed them back in when it realized that foreign journalists could help its propaganda effort. NATO, after repeatedly condemning state-run Radio and Television Serbia (RTS) as a key component of Milosevic’s “war machine,” bombed the station’s central studio in Belgrade on April 23, killing 16 people. CPJ condemned the strike as an action that jeopardized the safety of all journalists covering the war and potentially weakened the protections that journalists enjoy as civilians under international humanitarian law. After the RTS facility was destroyed, the Yugoslav government ordered all television and radio stations in the country to rebroadcast RTS’s signal.
After the war ended, in June, Milosevic quickly started rebuilding the RTS system. Meanwhile, even as wartime censorship was lifted, the isolated Yugoslav government continued its assault on independent media. The Milosevic regime had deliberately failed to regulate broadcasting after auctioning broadcast frequencies in 1998 and now used the fact that some independent radio and television stations did not have proper documentation as an excuse to fine them or shut them down.
The regime’s favorite weapon was the Serbian Information Law. In December alone, three of Serbia’s leading media outlets, including the opposition television station Studio B, were assessed massive fines in a case brought by Aleksandar Vucic, the Serbian information minister. Vucic argued that the three outlets had defamed him by publicizing opposition politician Vuk Draskovic’s claim that the government had tried to assassinate him (Studio B is run by Draskovic’s party, the Serbian Renewal Movement, which controls the city council). Later that month, authorities invoked the law to confiscate more than US$400,000 worth of equipment from a printing company that publishes most of Serbia’s independent newspapers.
Compounding the difficulty for independent media was their growing sense of being squeezed by Western funders as well as by Yugoslav authorities. At meetings in Budapest in July and August, Serb independent media representatives say, they were pilloried by the international organizations that had financed them for the last decade. “Because they continued to publish under strict state censorship and failed to inform the Serbian public of atrocities committed against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, it was implied that the funders’ investment hadn’t paid off–that Serbian protégés had let down their Western patrons,” wrote Lilijana Smajlovic in the online magazine Transitions.
Meanwhile, the UN authorities administering Kosovo had media problems of their own. As ethnic Albanians unleashed a series of violent attacks against ethnic Serbs in Kosovo, driving many Serbs out of the province, Serbian-language media virtually disappeared. After Veton Surroi and Baton Haxhiu used their newspaper Koha Ditore to condemn KLA attacks against Serbian civilians, they were viciously denounced in KLA-controlled media as “mobsters” and the “garbage of history.” In August, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which operates in Kosovo under UN authority, sought to develop a strategy for suppressing hate speech by regulating the press. Baton Haxhiu agreed to serve on a seven-member media policy board that was set up to advise the OSCE. By year’s end, Haxhiu had reconsidered and left the board, and the OSCE’s plan appeared to be foundering.
The republic of Montenegro was the one part of Yugoslavia where the press operated more or less normally in 1999. Belgrade has limited authority over Montenegro, whose president is the pro-Western Milo Djukanovic. Some Montenegrin journalists were harassed by the Yugoslav military, which has several bases in the republic, but during the bombing campaign Montenegro served as a refuge for several independent Serb journalists who feared arrest if they stayed in Belgrade. The situation for journalists in the republic may change quickly if Montenegro opts to leave the Yugoslav federation, as now appears likely.
In a rare December interview, President Milosevic declared, “In Yugoslavia, particularly in Serbia, the media are absolutely free.” Given the dire circumstances facing Serbia’s independent journalists, the president’s claim sounded like a macabre joke.
Nikola Djuric, City Radio LEGAL ACTION
On January 18, a municipal court in Nis sentenced Nikola Djuric, the owner of the independent radio station City Radio, to a two-month suspended prison sentence and one year of probation for operating an unlicensed radio station under Article 219, Paragraph 1, of the Serbian criminal code, which stipulates a punishment of up to one year’s imprisonment for such offenses.
City Radio was closed down by the Ministry of Telecommunications on August 18, 1998, when two policemen entered the studio and seized part of the station’s transmitter. Like most independent broadcast outlets in Serbia, City Radio had been denied a license after a complex and contradictory application process. The Ministry of Telecommunications readily licenses stations that are either pro-government or restrict themselves to broadcasting entertainment, while denying licenses to stations that are independent or report critically on the government. The few independent stations that receive licenses must pay disproportionately high fees.
Slavko Curuvija, Dnevni Telegraf LEGAL ACTION
Srdjan Jankovic, Dnevni Telegraf LEGAL ACTION
Zoran Lukovic, Dnevni Telegraf LEGAL ACTION
On March 8, Judge Krsto Bobot of the First Municipal Court in Belgrade sentenced Curuvija, the owner and publisher of the independent daily Dnevni Telegraf, and Jankovic and Lukovic, two of the newspaper’s reporters, to five months of imprisonment for allegedly spreading false information. They were charged under Article 218 of the criminal code in connection with a December 5, 1998, article that linked Milovan Bojic, the Serbian vice president and director of the Dedinje Institute for Cardiovascular Diseases, to the murder of Aleksandar Popovic, one of the institute’s physicians.
The journalists filed an appeal but had not received a court date by the onset of NATO’s bombing campaign. Their case was still pending at year’s end.
Koha Ditore LEGAL ACTION, CENSORED
Serb police shut down the Pristina offices of the daily Koha Ditore, the largest Albanian-language newspaper in Yugoslavia. They killed the security guard before ransacking the office. Veton Surroi, the newspaper’s publisher and one of the signers of the Rambouillet peace accord, went into hiding after the raid.
On March 22, Koha Ditore was fined 420,000 dinars (US$26,800), and Baton Haxhiu, the newspaper’s chief editor, was fined 110,000 dinars (US$7200) under the Serbian Information Law of 1998, a draconian statute that gives Serbian authorities great latitude to control and interfere with the press.
Television Studio B LEGAL ACTION
Dragan Kojadinovic, Television Studio B LEGAL ACTION
The city-run Belgrade television station Studio B and Kojadinovic, the station’s chief editor, were fined a total of 150,000 dinars (approximately US$10,000) for violating Article 69 of the Serbian Information Law. The fines were imposed in connection with a Studio B broadcast that allegedly insulted Brana Miljus, a former candidate for the prime ministry of Republika Srpska (Bosnia-Herzegovina).
Radio B92 HARASSED, LEGAL ACTION, CENSORED
Veran Matic, Radio B92 HARASSED
At 2:50 a.m., Yugoslav authorities shut down the independent Belgrade station Radio B92. Two technicians from the Yugoslav Federal Telecommunications Ministry, backed by about 10 policemen, entered the station’s offices and instructed its staff to discontinue broadcasts immediately. The policemen ordered all staff present to turn off their computers and refrain from answering the telephones.
According to an official note that was presented to the staff, B92 was shut down under Article 192, Paragraph 1 of the Law on General Administrative Procedures, as well as Article 1, Paragraph 1, Point 2 of the Law on the Systems of Connections. “Appeal does not suspend the enforcement of the ruling,” the note read.
At about 3 a.m.,Veran Matic, Radio B92’s chief editor and chairman of the Association of Independent Electronic Media (ANEM), was arrested by police who had accompanied inspectors from the Telecommunications Ministry. He was taken to the Belgrade police station, where he was detained for eight hours. He was released shortly before 12 p.m. While in detention, Matic was not allowed to contact his family or his lawyers. He was not questioned by police, nor was he informed of the reasons for his detention.
At a press conference later that day, Radio B92 issued a statement that said: “The arrest of Veran Matic and the disruption of Radio B92’s broadcasts are part of an increasingly radical suppression of independent media, creating unrest and fear in the people of Yugoslavia. They are also a direct message to the international community that the Serbian regime is prepared to resort to such measures against its citizens as part of its confrontation with the rest of the world. Radio B92 and ANEM have warned that this can only exacerbate division, fear, and unrest in the society.”
On April 13, the 45 full-time and 30 part-time employees of B92 resigned from the newly reconstituted station, now run by Milosevic loyalists, which began broadcasting on April 12. In a statement, ANEM said that the original staff had disassociated itself from the “usurping management.” The former staff of Radio B92 said they intended to remain in Serbia “out of loyalty to their listeners,” adding that they hoped to restore B92’s independence and integrity after the war.
All Serbian print media CENSORED
On March 24, Serbian information minister Aleksandar Vucic called a meeting with the editors of all major newspapers in Belgrade and announced that henceforth only officially authorized terminology could be used to describe certain events. For example, NATO was to be described as the “aggressor” and the air strikes were to be characterized as “aggression” against the Yugoslav state.
After the meeting, print media were ordered to submit all copy to Vucic and his deputy Radmila Visic for approval. Newspapers were allowed to publish only official statements and information taken from Yugoslavia’s news wires, which either are controlled by the state or practice radical self-censorship. The new censorship regime also restricted the sources that journalists were allowed to use. For example, all media were discouraged from quoting NATO or the U.S. State Department.
All journalists from NATO countries EXPELLED
On the first day of NATO’s air campaign against Serbia, Minister of Information Aleksandar Vucic issued a statement order-ing all journalists from NATO countries to leave Serbia. The statement said that the journalists had “instigated NATO’s aggressive activities, which were aimed at destroying the constitutional order and territorial integrity of Serbia and Yugoslavia and of misinforming the world.”
Vucic’s order conflicted with statements from the Yugoslav government, which indicated that foreign journalists were welcome to stay as long as their reporting was objective. Many foreign correspondents were detained overnight, threatened, and forced to leave, while others left of their own accord after hearing the statement. By the end of the day, nearly all foreign correspondents had left the country.
R. Jeffrey Smith, The Washington Post HARASSED, EXPELLED
David Holley, The Los Angeles Times HARASSED, EXPELLED
Lori Montgomery, Knight Ridder HARASSED, EXPELLED
Serbian police detained the three foreign correspondents for more than six hours in the Serbian city of Uzice. They questioned Smith, Holley, and Montgomery, searched their car and belongings, and then deported them to Bosnia’s Republika Srpska.
Mark Milstein, Knight Ridder Tribune Syndicate HARASSED
Police detained Milstein, a free-lance photographer on assignment for the Knight Ridder Tribune Syndicate, in the northern Serbian city of Novi Sad. Milstein had left Belgrade earlier the same day and was driving to Budapest when he was stopped, taken into custody, and detained overnight. His belongings were also searched. Authorities gave no explanation for his detention.
While in Belgrade, Milstein had obtained a visa from the Yugoslav military, which just days before had taken over the Ministry of the Interior’s responsibility for issuing visas. Nonetheless, Milstein was told that he should have left the visa behind with authorities in Belgrade. He was released the next day.
Radio Senta LEGAL ACTION
Radio Velika Kikinda LEGAL ACTION
Authorities shut down Radio Senta, a Hungarian-language radio station in the city of Kikinda, and Radio Velika Kikinda, a Serbian-language radio station in Kikinda. Both stations are owned by Zoran Malesevi and are affiliated with the Association of Independent Electronic Media (ANEM) network. Serbian officials also confiscated a transmitter and other equipment.
Television Cacak LEGAL ACTION
The independent Television Cacak, an affiliate of the Association of Independent Electronic Media (ANEM) network in the city of Cacak, was shut down under wartime censorship rules imposed during NATO’s bombing campaign.
Jon Sistiaga Escudero, Telecinco HARASSED
Bernabe Dominguez Lopez, Telecinco HARASSED
Arie Kievit, Algemeen Dagblad HARASSED
Serbian police in Kosovo detained Escudero and Lopez, both correspondents for the Spanish TV station Telecinco, and Kievit, a Dutch free-lance photographer on assignment for the Dutch daily Algemeen Dagblad. According to Telecinco and Algemeen Dagblad, the reporters were in Macedonia interviewing refugees arriving by train from Kosovo.
The train was stopped on the border at the Macedonian town of Jankovic, with one part of the train in Macedonia and the other in Kosovo. The reporters entered the train on the Macedonian side and unwittingly crossed over into Kosovo. They were confronted by Serbian police, who arrested them for illegal entry into Kosovo. The police handed them over to Serb soldiers, who detained them temporarily before transferring them to Pristina, where they were held under house arrest at the Grand Hotel.
On April 7, all three were handed over to José Corderch, the Spanish ambassador to Bulgaria, in Macedonia. They did not report any physical mistreatment while in detention.
Radio 021 LEGAL ACTION
Authorities banned the Novi Sad radio station, an affiliate of the Association of Independent Electronic Media (ANEM) network, on the grounds that the station had allegedly failed to pay its frequency tax in February.
Television Soko LEGAL ACTION
The Yugoslav Telecommunications Ministry banned Soko TV, an affiliate of the Association of Independent Electronic Media in the eastern Serbian town of Soko Banja. The ban was issued after the station rebroadcast segments of foreign programs in violation of the 1998 Serbian Information Law, which bans programs originating from NATO countries.
Slavko Curuvija, Dnevni Telegraf, Evropljanin KILLED
Curuvija, editor and publisher of the daily newspaper Dnevni Telegraf and publisher of the biweekly magazine Evropljanin (The European), was murdered at 4:40 p.m. as he and his wife, Branka Prpa, were returning to their home in central Belgrade after a walk. Two men wearing dark clothing and black face masks approached the couple, pistol-whipped Prpa, and shot Curuvija in the head.
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 fined Dnevni Telegraf and Evropljanin a total of more than US$100,000 for alleged violations of the law. On March 8, Curuvija, along with two other journalists from Dnevni Telegraf, was sentenced to five months in prison for allegedly defaming Serbian deputy prime minister Milovan Bojic. He was forced to shut down altogether after the NATO bombing began, on March 24.
TV Montenegro HARASSED
Federal troops entered the offices of TV Montenegro and demanded that the state-run station broadcast news reports produced by RTS, the state-run Serb television network. In order to avoid an implicitly threatened takeover, TV Montenegro’s management agreed to provide RTS with one half hour in prime time each day, although it continued to broadcast programming from CNN, the British channel Sky TV, the Italian RAI, and the Spanish TVE.
Hans-Peter Schnitzler, SAT-1 television THREATENED, HARASSED
Schnitzler, southeastern Europe correspondent for Germany’s SAT-1 television station, was reported missing by his colleagues in Germany. His editors said they lost contact with the 56-year-old Schnitzler on April 16, after he left Belgrade for the Croatian border. Schnitzler decided to leave Yugoslavia after his car and equipment were confiscated by Serbian authorities. During that attack, Schnitzler was held at gunpoint and forced to turn over his cell phone.
On April 20, NATO voiced concerns about Schnitzler’s disappearance. Serbian authorities told the Japanese consul in Belgrade, who was then representing Germany’s interests in Yugoslavia, that Schnitzler was in good condition, but they refused to disclose where or why he was being held. On April 24, Noriaki Owada, the Japanese ambassador, was allowed to visit Schnitzler in a Belgrade jail. Owada reported that Schnitzler was in good physical condition and did not appear to have been mistreated. However, Schnitzler later claimed to have been severely beaten during his first week in detention.
Serb army officials charged Schnitzler with espionage. Germany unequivocally denied that the journalist was a spy, calling the allegations “ridiculous.” On May 11, Schnitzler was released. He told reporters that Serbian authorities had dropped espionage charges against him following an order by President Slobodan Milosevic. On the day of his release, Schnitzler was driven to the Croatian border in the middle of the night and ordered to walk into Croatia. His release came several days after a delegation from the International Federation of Journalists appealed to Yugoslav officials on his behalf during a visit to Belgrade.
Lucia Annunziata HARASSED, EXPELLED
Annunziata, a prominent Italian television reporter for the program “Pinocchio,” which airs on RAI 2, was detained by Yugoslav military authorities at the YugoslavÐCroatian border as she attempted to return to Italy. She was strip-searched, handcuffed, and beaten, then taken back to Belgrade, where she was questioned for nearly eight hours about Italy’s role in the NATO air strikes. She was then expelled from Yugoslavia.
Eric Vaillant, TF-1 LEGAL ACTION
Vaillant, a cameraman for the French network TF-1, was arrested and charged with espionage for filming near Rozaje, in Montenegro. A Yugoslav military judge in Montenegro ordered a month-long investigation into the charges, which carried a minimum penalty of 10 years in prison. French president Jacques Chirac called Vaillant’s detention “reprehensible.”
Vaillant was released on March 2. He reported that he had been well treated in prison. He credited his release to the personal intervention of President Chirac.
Antun Masle, Globus LEGAL ACTION
Yugoslav soldiers arrested Masle, a correspondent for the Croatian weekly Globus, and charged him with espionage after he crossed the border from Albania into Montenegro. A Yugoslav military judge in Montenegro then ordered Masle jailed for one month while the charges were investigated. If found guilty, he faced a minimum of 10 years in prison.
Masle was arrested after publishing an article based on information provided by the independent Montenegrin newspaper Monitor and the independent radio station Radio Free Montenegro. The judge claimed that the articles contained classified information.
Masle returned to Croatia on June 10, after escaping from Yugoslav troops in Podgorica on June 8. The 40-year-old veteran war correspondent evaded his guards in a Podgorica hospital, where he had been transferred after complaining of stomach pains.
Shao Yunhuan, Xinhua News Agency KILLED
Xu Xinghu, The Guangming Daily KILLED
Zhu Ying, The Guangming Daily KILLED
Yunhuan, 48, a reporter with the official Xinhua News Agency, and newlyweds Xinghu, 29, and Ying, 27, who both worked for The Guangming Daily, died when NATO warplanes bombed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade. NATO spokesmen said the embassy bombing was an accident.
The journalists were on assignment in Belgrade covering the conflict between NATO and the government of Slobodan Milosevic. After cremation, their ashes were returned to Beijing on May 12.
Nebojsa Ristic, TV Soko IMPRISONED
A Sokobanja district court found Ristic, editor of the independent television station TV Soko in Sokobanja, guilty of disseminating false information under Article 218 of the Serbian penal code. He was sentenced to one year in prison. The charges stemmed from a search by police of Ristic’s office, where they found a poster carrying the slogan “Free Press: Made in Serbia!” and a logo of the Belgrade-based independent radio station B92. Ristic’s appeal was denied on April 26; he was still in prison at year’s end.
Brian Barron, BBC HARASSED
Simon Wilson, BBC HARASSED
John Bonny, BBC HARASSED
A Yugoslav soldier detained BBC correspondent Barron, his cameraman Bonny, and Wilson, his producer, for five hours in Podgorica. They were filming in a park in the Montenegrin capital when they were confronted by a soldier, who accused them of espionage. He took them to a military barracks for interrogation. Their videotape was confiscated, along with the names of local contacts. After a stern warning not to photograph in the area again, they were released in good condition.
TV Studio B CENSORED
Serbian authorities placed a military censor in the studios of Belgrade’s Studio B to monitor the daily 7 p.m. newscast, with the intent of ensuring that no uncensored information about the Serb army made it to the air. The move came in response to unscripted remarks by thenÐdeputy prime minister Vuk Draskovic, which Studio B aired on April 25. Draskovic, whose party controls the city-owned Studio B, criticized the state-run television network RTS and President Slobodan Milosevic’s disinformation tactics, urging state news outlets to be more truthful.
Along with all other media in Yugoslavia, Studio B was subjected to wartime political and military censorship. Draskovic was sacked on April 28, because of his comments.
Miodrag Perovic, Antenna M, Monitor THREATENED, LEGAL ACTION
Perovic, director of Montenegro’s Antenna M radio station and co-owner of the Podgorica-based weekly Monitor, went into hiding to escape reprisals for his work. Perovic was charged with treason under Yugoslavia’s martial law for writing editorials in which he called for greater Montenegrin autonomy.
Perovic was scheduled to appear before a military tribunal in Podgorica on June 10. After authorities ordered his arrest in March, he fled for Italy. While in hiding, he continued his editorial work for Monitor. An outspoken critic of Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic, Perovic said he fled to avoid capture and possible torture by the Yugoslav army.
In an April editorial, Perovic urged the Montenegrin government to stage a de facto coup by seizing control of federal army bases located in the republic. He added that he would close both Monitor and Antenna M if authorities imposed military censorship in Montenegro.
In early May, Perovic was charged with treason and insulting the Yugoslav army. He was scheduled to be tried in absentia by a Yugoslav military tribunal. Perovic returned to Podgorica on June 5, after military officials promised not to arrest him on arrival and vowed that he would be treated fairly. If convicted, he faced up to 10 years’ imprisonment.
Yugoslav authorities questioned Perovic several times after his return. After the Kosovo war ended, the military prosecutor dropped the treason charge against Perovic and transferred the remaining charge of insult to a civilian court. He was charged under the civil code of the republic of Montenegro, under which he could be fined or jailed. Perovic had not yet been tried by year’s end; he believed the remaining charge would also be dismissed.
Vyacheslav Grunsky NTV EXPELLED
Grunsky, a correspondent with Russia’s independent NTV network, was expelled from Yugoslavia on May 7. Serbian officials offered no explanation for the move. Grunsky’s employers at NTV said that he was expelled in retaliation for NTV’s recent reports on human-rights violations by Serbian forces in Kosovo. While most Russian media supported Serbia in the Kosovo conflict, in April NTV became the first network to broadcast interviews with ethnic Albanian deportees from Kosovo in the refugee camps of Albania and Macedonia.
Abner Machuca, TVN ATTACKED
Machuca, a soundman with Chilean state television (TVN), was shot in the head by a sniper near Albania’s border with Kosovo.
At around 10:30 a.m., Machuca’s TVN colleagues heard several shots and then saw Machuca fall to the ground. He was driven to an Albanian military base and airlifted to a hospital in Tirana. No one else was hurt in the attack.
The TVN crew included correspondent Claudio Mendoza, cameraman Alejandro Leal, and Machuca. They were filming a group of foreign correspondents on the border between Kosovo and Albania. International journalists working on the border had come under sniper fire from the Kosovo side for several days, according to TVN editors in Santiago. The group of journalists who were shot at on May 27, including Machuca, were clearly identifiable as journalists because of their camera equipment, the editors said. There were no military targets in the vicinity.
CPJ worked for Machuca’s safe evacuation to Italy, where surgeons removed the bullet from his skull. He made a full recovery.
Volker Kraemer, Stern KILLED
Gabriel Gruener, Stern KILLED
Senol Alit KILLED
Two German journalists on assignment in Kosovo and their Macedonian translator were fatally shot by unidentified gunmen on June 13 just outside Dulje, some 25 miles south of the provincial capital, Pristina.
Veteran photographer Kraemer, 56, died on the scene, while 35-year-old Gruener, an experienced Balkans correspondent, died on the way to a hospital in Macedonia. The two journalists worked for the Hamburg-based weekly newsmagazine Stern.
Kraemer, Gruener, and their interpreter Alit, a Macedonian citizen of Albanian origin, were returning by car to Macedonia to file that day’s news dispatch when they encountered sniper fire coming from a distance, according to Oliver Herrgesell, Stern‘s deputy editor.
Herrgesell said many details of the incident remained unclear. But from some accounts it appeared that the two journalists and their interpreter might have gotten lost outside Dulje. Medics from the French relief group Médecins Sans Frontires, 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 at long range. Herrgesell said Kraemer was killed instantly by shots to the head, while Gruener was hit in the abdomen and was still conscious when the medics arrived. He died in a helicopter en route to a hospital in Tetova, in Macedonia.
On June 14, German NATO troops discovered Alit’s body 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 shooting at first refused to allow the German soldiers into the area.)
Christopher Wyatt, Daily Record ATTACKED
Simon Houston, Daily Record ATTACKED
Xherdet Shabani ATTACKED
Two British journalists and their ethnic Albanian interpreter were injured 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 were driving toward Macedonia from Prizren to refuel when an unidentified armed man attempted to flag them down, said Daily Record news editor Gordon Hay. Shabani, a Macedonian citizen of Albanian origin, insisted they speed up to evade the gunman. Wyatt, a photographer who was driving the car, complied, speeding past the gunman and several other unidentified men. The gunman fired several rounds from his semiautomatic weapon at the car’s rear window, hitting the 28-year-old Shabani in the shoulder. Wyatt, 28, and Simon Houston, 30, a reporter, suffered superficial head injuries. Houston was also wounded in the arm.
All three men were treated at a British army camp in Stimjle. Shabani was taken to a hospital in Pristina the next day. He was released after several hours of treatment.
Hay said the journalists spent the day of June 16 in Prizren talking with fighters from the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) but expressed doubt that their attacker was affiliated with the KLA. They told Hay that neither the gunman nor his companions wore uniforms of any kind. The journalists were driving a rental car with Macedonian plates, which could have attracted the gunman’s attention, Hay said. But their car had no press markings, and the journalists were not wearing flak jackets or helmets.
Alexandra Rankovic, Beta News Agency ATTACKED
Slavis Lekic, Reporter ATTACKED
Imre Sabo, Danas ATTACKED
Milo Radivojisa, Video Nedeljnik ATTACKED
Goran Tomasevic, Reuters ATTACKED
Zoran Vujovic, Studio B ATTACKED
At least eight journalists were attacked by Belgrade police during anti-government demonstrations on September 29 and 30.
On September 29, five journalists were among a group of more than 45 people attacked by riot police during a protest march that apparently attracted around 20,000 anti-Milosevic demonstrators. Rankovic, a Beta News Agency reporter, and Radivojisa, a cameraman with Belgrade’s Video Nedeljnik, were clubbed by police as they attempted to follow protesters to Dedinje, the suburb where Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic resides.
Two other journalists, Reuters photographer Tomasevic and an unnamed cameraman working for CNN and Sky TV, were also attacked. Police destroyed their equipment and confiscated their footage of the demonstration.
Three other reporters were attacked on the evening of September 30. Police clubbed Lekic of the Banja Luka newspaper Reporter while he was covering protests led by the Alliance for Change, a coalition united in opposition to President Milosevic. An eyewitness from the Beta News Agency in Belgrade also reported seeing police break the lens of a camera belonging to Sabo, a photographer with the local daily Danas, while Belgrade’s independent TV Studio B announced that police smashed Vujovic’s TV camera and confiscated equipment belonging to a local radio station.
Veton Surroi, Koha Ditore THREATENED
Baton Haxhiu, Koha Ditore THREATENED
In a long article, Kosovapress, a news agency linked with the ethnic Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), denounced Koha Ditore publisher Surroi and the paper’s editor Haxhiu as Yugoslav spies and traitors to the Kosovar Albanian cause. The article warned both journalists to expect possible revenge attacks because of their allegedly treasonous views. Koha Ditore is an independent, Albanian-language paper serving the Kosovo area.
The threats came in response to Koha Ditore‘s accusations that the KLA had incited violence against ethnic Serbs and other minorities in Kosovo. In August, Surroi published an editorial in Koha Ditore warning that radical forces in the KLA were leading the region toward “fascism.” Haxhiu attacked KLA leaders on similar grounds in a late-September interview published in the German magazine Der Spiegel. Surroi and Haxhiu also received several anonymous telephone threats.
Because of his courageous Kosovo coverage as editor of Koha Ditore, CPJ honored Haxhiu with its 1999 International Press Freedom Award (see page 64).
Danas LEGAL ACTION
A Belgrade court fined the Dan Graf Company, which publishes the independent Belgrade daily Danas, 280,000 dinars (US$23,729) for “taking advantage of press freedom.” The case was filed by Vojislav Seselj, vice president of the Serbian government and leader of the ultra-nationalist Serbian Radical Party.
Seselj’s complaint was based on an October 19 Danas interview with Novak Killibarda, vice prime minister of Montenegro. In the interview, Killibarda stated that he overheard Seselj threatening to expel Montenegrins from Serbia or force them to wear identity bands.
In a November 8 protest letter to Yugoslav information minister Goran Matic, CPJ expressed concern about the deterioration of press freedom in Serbia.
ABC Grafika HARASSED, LEGAL ACTION
Promene HARASSED, LEGAL ACTION
Slavoljub Karacevic LEGAL ACTION
ABC Grafika, a company that prints many independent newspapers in Yugoslavia, and its editor Karacevic were fined more than 1 million dinars (US$84,745) for 21 separate violations of the Serbian Information Law of 1998 for printing issues of the opposition news bulletin Promene. According to the Serbian Ministry of Information, neither Promene nor the other papers published had been properly registered with authorities.
Promene itself was fined 320,000 dinars (US$27,119) under the same law and was also sued for defamation by the deputy Serbian information minister, Radmila Visic. In the year after the Serbian Information Law was passed, more than 30 separate charges against various media resulted in fines totaling more than 19.6 million dinars (US$1.6 million).
Citing Article 79 of the law on importing foreign publications, the Yugoslav Information Ministry banned the popular Bosnia-based magazine Reporter from Serbia. On September 22, Serbian guards had confiscated 8,000 copies of the weekly at the Bosnian border.
Reporter‘s editor, Perica Vucinic, said the ban was related to an article published in the confiscated September 22 edition that implicated several wealthy Serbian families in embezzlement and corruption scandals.
One month after the ban, Reporter registered a separate edition in Yugoslavia. On December 26, police seized 400 copies of the new publication in the southern town of Vanje. Officials in other towns also pressured vendors to stop selling the magazine. No official steps were taken to halt distribution, however.
Veselin Simonovic, Blic LEGAL ACTION
Miodrag Djuricic, Blic LEGAL ACTION
Blic LEGAL ACTION
Studio B LEGAL ACTION
Dragan Kojadinovic, Studio B LEGAL ACTION
Dusan Mitrovic, Danas LEGAL ACTION
Veseljko Koprivica, Danas LEGAL ACTION
Danas LEGAL ACTION
The Belgrade daily newspapers Blic and Danas and the Studio B television station were fined a total of 970,000 dinars (US$84,500) in a defamation case brought against them by Vojislav Seselj and Aleksandar Vucic, respectively leader and secretary general of the Serbian Radical Party.
The charges stemmed from their coverage of statements made by Vuk Draskovic, leader of the opposition Serbian Renewal Movement, at a December 3 press conference in Belgrade. Draskovic accused the Serbian secret service of trying to assassinate him in Belgrade on October 3, when a truck swerved into his car. Draskovic was injured in the crash; his brother-in-law and three other passengers were killed.
Blic is the largest circulating newspaper in Serbia. Studio B is controlled by Draskovic, and Danas is a highly influential opposition daily that circulates among Belgrade intellectuals. All three outlets were charged for carrying Draskovic’s statement.
Blic was fined 180,000 dinars (US$15,600). The paper’s editor, Veselin Simonovic, and director, Miodrag Djuricic, were fined 80,000 dinars (US$6,950) and 50,000 dinars (US$4,350), respectively. Danas was fined 200,000 dinars (US$14,000). The paper’s director, Dusan Mitrovic, and editor, Veseljko Koprivica, were each fined 80,000 dinars (US$6,950). Studio B was fined 200,000 dinars (US$17,400). Its editor and director, Dragan Kojadinovic, was fined an additional 100,000 dinars (US$8,700).
All the fines were apparently paid out of a fund established by Draskovic and the Serbian Renewal Movement.
Glas Javnosti LEGAL ACTION
ABC Grafika LEGAL ACTION
Serbian financial police blocked accounts and froze assets of the Belgrade independent daily Glas Javnosti and also of ABC Grafika, a printing company used by many Serbian independent newspapers and opposition political groups. Both organizations were charged with tax evasion, a charge they denied.
Glas Javnosti and ABC Grafika both suffered harassment earlier in the year. On October 1, police sealed Glas Javnosti‘s office and shut down its printing press. ABC Grafika and its editor, Slavoljub Karacevic, had already been fined more than 1.65 million dinars (US$139,830) on 21 separate violations for printing issues of the opposition newspaper Promene.