CPJ concerned about safety of independent journalist

New York, July 15, 2002—The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is very concerned about the safety of Natasa Odalovic, a correspondent for the U.S.-government-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and a columnist for the weekly Danas, which is based in Serbia’s capital, Belgrade.

“I have been under surveillance for the past three days and am very concerned about my security,” Odalovic told CPJ in a telephone interview today.

Odalovic and sources familiar with her situation believe the surveillance stems from a July 5 column in Danas in which the journalist reported that Aleksandar Tijanic, a media adviser to Yugoslav president Vojislav Kostunica, told her that Serbian prime minister Zoran Djindjic was ordering “contract killings.”

Odalovic said that Tijanic made the accusation this winter during a telephone conversation that she covertly recorded. According to several Serbian news reports, Tijanic has accused Odalovic of lying.

The accusation, along with several other recent allegations about political intrigue in Serbia, have made the content of Odalovic’s tape recording a highly politicized national scandal.

The Belgrade district public prosecutor, Rade Terzic, has opened a formal inquiry into Tijanic’s statement, as well as several other allegations involving the president’s office, said Serbian press reports. Police officers have questioned both Odalovic and Tijanic.