Journalist killed in brutal assault

New York, June 11, 2001 — Milan Pantic, a reporter for the Belgrade daily Vecernje Novosti, was killed this morning before 8 a.m. local time as he was entering his apartment building in the central Serbian town of Jagodina, according to CPJ sources and local news reports.

Pantic had gone to fetch a loaf of bread. As he entered the front door of the apartment building, attackers grabbed him from behind, broke his neck, and then struck him several times in the head with a sharp object as he lay face down on the ground, Vecernje Novosti told CPJ. An eyewitness saw two attackers-both aged 20 to 30 and wearing masks and black shirts-running away from the scene, Vecernje Novosti sources said.

Local authorities have launched an investigation. A local Radio Television Serbia (RTS) reporter in Jagodina who requested anonymity told CPJ that the Interior Ministry in Jagodina was planning to make a preliminary statement on the case by 12 noon tomorrow local time.

“We deplore the brutal murder of our colleague Milan Pantic,” said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper. “We urge Yugoslav authorities to bring the killers to justice with all possible speed.”

The 47-year-old journalist worked as the Vecernje Novosti correspondent for the Pomoravlje region of central Serbia. He reported extensively on criminal affairs, including corruption in local companies. His wife, Zivka Pantic, told Vecernje Novosti that Pantic had received numerous telephone threats in response to articles he had written.

Despite the fall of Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic and the election of reformist governments at the federal and Serbian republic levels, journalists continue to face security threats due to the strength of organized crime and their links with politicians and security officials from the Milosevic era, many of whom remain in positions of authority.

CPJ is investigating the murder to determine whether it was indeed related to Pantic’s work.