Newspaper editor receives death threat for reporting on war crimes

New York, December 8, 2005—The Committee to Protect Journalists is alarmed by an anonymous death threat made against Drago Hedl, editor of the independent Croatian satirical weekly Feral Tribune. Hedl said on Wednesday he received a letter mailed December 5 in his home city of Osijek that in letters cut from newspapers threatened to kill him and his source, local and international press reported.

The letter alluded to Milan Levar, an ethnic Serb, who was killed in a 2000 explosion after testifying before the Hague-based United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia about war crimes committed against ethnic Serbs in Croatia.

“We call on the authorities in Croatia to pursue their investigation aggressively and prosecute those responsible for threatening our colleague Drago Hedl,” said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper. “Ensuring accountability for these kinds of abuses is important because journalists in Croatia continue to face threats in retaliation for their reporting.”

In a statement on December 7, Feral Tribune linked the threat to an article it published in July about former Croatian soldier Krunoslav Fehir who admitted helping abduct, torture and murder ethnic Serb civilians in Osijek in 1991-92.

The soldier implicated Branimir Glavas, a wartime commander of Croatian forces and current head of the Osijek municipal council, in those war crimes. Glavas has publicly denied responsibilities for the abuses.

Osijek police chief Stipo Rimac said December 7 that authorities were investigating the letter and providing Hedl with protection, the state news agency HINA reported.

In the past several journalists have been threatened in retaliation for criticizing Glavas. Sandra Krizanec, a reporter at the Osijek Studio of Croatian Radio and Television (HRT), was threatened over the telephone by Glavas in May 2002, according to the local press. Krizanec had prepared a report about financial irregularities committed during the privatization of state-owned companies in the 1990s and alleged that Glavas had been involved in corruption. Several hours after the report aired, Glavas called the journalist and physically threatened her.