Reporter beaten by men with baseball bats

New York, June 4, 2008–The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the brazen attack on investigative reporter Dusan Miljus, who covers organized crime and corruption for the popular Croatian daily Jutarnji List. According to Reuters, two unidentified men beat Miljus with baseball bats in a parking lot near his house in Zagreb on Monday evening. Miljus was hospitalized with a concussion, a broken arm, and facial injuries, local press reported.

“We are appalled by this vicious attack on our colleague Dusan Miljus,” CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said. “We call on the authorities to promptly look into the assault on Miljus and bring those responsible to justice. Crime reporters must be safe to pursue investigative stories in order to keep the public informed.”

Renata Ivanovic, president of the Croatian Investigative Journalists Association, spoke to Miljus and told CPJ that the journalist believes he was followed by men on a motorcycle just prior to the attack. Miljus could not see faces of his assailants because they wore helmets, he said.

Sanja Modric, an editor at Jutarnji List, told CPJ that the assault was retaliation by the mafia for Miljus’ coverage of organized crime and its connection to politicians. Miljus often wrote and spoke about court trials and murder investigations. Modric told CPJ that after Miljus covered the murder of a local mafia member last December, another daily, Vecernji List, published an obituary for the journalist. The newspaper later apologized, saying it had been a mistake. “It was not an accident, but another warning for Miljus and his colleagues,” Modric said. According to Modric, Miljus most recently investigated illegal arms production and trafficking in Croatia.

Mladen Plese, Jutarnji List‘s editor-in-chief, told CPJ the newspaper demanded and received a meeting with Prime Minister Ivo Sanader and his government. Police subsequently assigned two officers to guard Miljus’hospital ward.

“They promised to investigate the attack but it is just a promise,” Plese told CPJ. “Police failed to investigate death threats Miljus has been receiving and they never offered him protection.”

Sofia City Prosecutor Nikolai Kokinov told the popular television channel bTV that authorities had offered “every possible protection as legislated by the code of criminal procedure” to Stoev, but the writer had refused.