Journalist released from prison; pleads not guilty at UN tribunal

New York, October 14, 2005—Croatian authorities released Josip Jovic from prison on Thursday after he agreed to respond to contempt charges at the Hague-based United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, according to local and international press reports.

Jovic, former editor-in-chief of the Split daily Slobodna Dalmacija, traveled to Holland today and pleaded not guilty to defying Tribunal gag orders against publishing the identity and testimony of a protected witness. He was allowed to return to Croatia after the hearing.

Croatian police in the southern city of Split arrested Jovic on October 6 after he ignored a Tribunal summons to enter a plea at a September hearing. Jovic initially challenged his extradition to the Tribunal but agreed this week to travel to Holland to avoid remaining in prison during a lengthy legal process, The Associated Press reported.

The case stems from indictments issued by the Tribunal in April and September against five journalists and a former intelligence officer for identifying a witness who testified against indicted war criminal Tihomir Blaskic in 1997. The Tribunal had issued a number of gag orders barring news organizations from identifying the witness or publishing the witness’ testimony.

The other four journalists also pleaded not guilty, saying the material they published was of public interest and the witness’ identity had already been made public. The journalists face up to seven years in prison and 100,000 euros (US$121,000) in fines if found guilty.