Sarajevo, May 10, 2001 — In a meeting today with representatives from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the Serb chairman of the presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Zivko Radisic, pledged to bring to justice the perpetrators of a 1999 car-bomb attack on Bosnian Serb journalist Zelko Kopanja.
As chairman of Bosnia’s joint presidency, Radisic oversees the country’s two entities, the Republika Srpska and the Croat-Muslim Federation. Radisic met with CPJ board member Kati Marton and with Alex Lupis, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator.
Kopanja is the co-founder and editor of Nezavisne Novine, the largest independent Serb daily in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The bomb attack, which destroyed both Kopanja’s legs, was prompted by a series of articles that documented the killings of Bosnian Muslims by Bosnian Serb authorities during the 1992-95 war.
On November 21, 2000, CPJ honored Kopanja with an International Press Freedom Award for courage and independence in journalism at its annual awards ceremony in New York City.
At today’s meeting, the CPJ representatives expressed deep concern about the lack of progress in the investigation.
“I was informed earlier this morning by United Nations police inspector Paul Young that this is ‘not a complicated case,'” Marton told President Radisic. “Young told me that Republika Srpska authorities had not even appointed a full-time investigator, that the pace of the investigation had slowed in recent months, and that even the chief investigator for the Republika Srpska police responsible for the case had been removed from his position for unexplained reasons.”
“I know the investigation into the Kopanja case is being done by professional institutions,” President Radisic told Marton. “We insist that the truth be uncovered and the perpetrators be found. This is a big test for the Republika Srpska authorities.”
Radisic promised to personally express his interest in the case to Republika Srpska prime minister Mladen Ivanic and Interio Minister Perica Bundalo.
The meeting with President Radisic comes at a time when Bosnian journalists are facing an upsurge in threats and intimidation from the Croatian nationalist HDZ party, as well as growing insecurity in the aftermath of civil disturbances aimed at preventing mosques from being rebuilt in the Serb-controlled cities of Trebinje and Banja Luka.
Marton and Lupis visited Sarajevo at the conclusion of a five-day CPJ mission to assess press freedom conditions in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia.