June 27, 2000
His Excellency Alija Izetbegovic
Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is deeply disturbed by several recent incidents in which individuals closely linked to your political party attacked individual journalists and a local publishing house in Sarajevo.
On June 11, according to international and local sources, Muhamed Hamo Korda, who is reportedly affiliated with the ruling Party of Democratic Action (SDA), insulted and threatened Edin Avdic, the cultural affairs editor of the Sarajevo-based weekly magazine Slobodna Bosna. Korda was reportedly incensed by the magazine’s coverage of alleged corruption associated with SDA-sponsored cultural activities in Bosnia.
In front of the journalist and several witnesses, Korda made a phone call, after which he told Avdic to prepare for a physical assault. An hour later, Avdic was attacked by two unidentified men in front of his house in the Ciglane neighborhood of Sarajevo. The attackers repeated Korda’s threats and hit the journalist twice in the face.
On April 26, according to local and international press reports, Adi Hadziarapovic, a political reporter for the Sarajevo daily Dnevni Avaz, was brutally attacked by Enes Colpa, the chauffeur of Muslim-Croat Federation prime minister Edhem Bicakcic. The editor in chief of Dnevni Avaz, Mensur Osmovic, claimed the attack resulted from Hadziarapovic’s published criticisms of the prime minister and local business interests.
The SDA government has also harassed Dnevni Avaz using hostile tax audits. According to Osmovic, Sarajevo tax police broke into the newspaper’s printing house at around 4 a.m. on June 6, delaying the newspaper’s production and distribution. Osmovic claims the inspectors failed to produce a warrant signed by the director of the local tax bureau, as required by law. (According to local news reports, the director himself, Midhat Afifovic, had been ordered to go on vacation a few days before the raid.)
Osmovic told CPJ that as the tax inspectors were leaving, they threatened to close the paper down and arrest its director. On June 16, all Dnevni Avaz‘s bank accounts were frozen. Tax officials justified this action by claiming that newspaper employees had prevented them from completing their investigation.
According to Osmovic, SDA officials want to close the paper because of its exposŽs of SDA corruption in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Having once supported the SDA politically, Dnevni Avaz has attacked the party fiercely in recent months.
As a nonpartisan organization that promotes press freedom around the world, CPJ is disturbed by the SDA’s blatant attempts to control media outlets and individual journalists in Sarajevo. Believing that individual journalists and newspapers should be free to publish articles and political views without fear of retribution, we urge you to investigate these incidents thoroughly and punish those found responsible. Furthermore, we urge you to work with your colleagues in the collective Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina to ensure that journalists throughout the republic may work freely and safely.
Thank you for your attention. We await your comments.
Ann K. Cooper