Opposition newspaper editor shot dead

New York, May 28, 2004 – Dusko Jovanovic, the controversial publisher and editor-in-chief of the opposition daily Dan, was killed in a drive-by shooting early Friday morning as he was leaving his office in the Montenegrin capital of Podgorica, according to local and international news reports.

Unidentified assailants used an automatic rifle to shoot Jovanovic in the head and chest just after midnight as he was getting into his car.

Jovanovic was rushed to the Clinical Center in Podgorica and died several hours after undergoing surgery, according to an article posted on Dan‘s Web site (www.dan.cg.yu).

Dan assistant editor Danilo Vukovic told CPJ in a telephone interview today that Jovanovic had received a letter with a vague threat about a month ago.

Investigative judge Radomir Ivanovic and police officers are currently investigating the murder, according to local press reports. “We urge Montenegrin authorities to pursue every lead and investigate this case aggressively,” said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper.

Dan is closely tied to the Socialist People’s Party, which supported former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic throughout the 1990s and has faced numerous lawsuits for criticizing Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic and his ruling coalition government.

Djukanovic filed a libel lawsuit against Jovanovic in April for published articles linking the prime minister to a human trafficking scandal. A court hearing was set for June, Dan assistant editor Danilo Vukovic told CPJ.

In June 2002, a court in Podgorica ordered Jovanovic to pay 15,000 Euros (US$ 18,300) in damages to Djukanovic after Dan republished articles from a Croatian newspaper linking Montenegro’s president to tobacco smuggling in the Balkans, the Podgorica-based news agency Mina reported.

Jovanovic was the first journalist to be prosecuted by the Hague-based United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) after his newspaper published an August 2002 story revealing the identity of a protected witness.

Protected witness K-32 testified against Milosevic, who is being tried by the ICTY for war crimes. The witness received threatening phone calls after Dan revealed his identity.

In April 2003, the Tribunal charged Jovanovic with contempt of court and he faced up to seven years in jail and/or a fine of up to US$106,000.

Jovanovic publicly apologized for revealing the witness’ identity in a March 2004 article published in Dan, and the Tribunal dropped its charges against the editor the following month, The Associated Press reported.

Aside from journalistic activities, Jovanovic was active in business and politics. The motive for his killing remains unclear.