Two journalists killed in car bomb

New York, October 23, 2008–The Committee to Protect Journalists mourns the deaths of Ivo Pukanic, owner and editorial director, and Niko Franjic, marketing director, of the Zagreb-based political weekly Nacional.

The two were killed when a bomb exploded today under Pukanic’s car outside the paper’s building, according to local press reports and CPJ sources.

“We are shocked and saddened by the brutal killing of Ivo Pukanic and Niko Franjic,” CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said. “Even against the backdrop of violence and organized crime that has recently gripped Croatia, this bombing marks a significant escalation. The Croatian authorities must mount a thorough investigation and bring those responsible for these murders to justice swiftly.”

A bomb planted beneath Pukanic’s Lexus sedan in downtown Zagreb, Croatia’s capital, exploded at around 6:30 p.m., killing him and Franjic. Pukanic and Franjic were close to but not inside the car, local news reports said.

Zagreb police are investigating the incident but have not made any comments yet, Sasa Lekovic, a prominent investigative journalist who knew Pukanic, told CPJ. Lekovic said Nacional was one of a handful of Croatian newspapers with a national reach that regularly published news on politically sensitive topics. A Reuters report said Nacional often exposed corruption and human rights abuses.

In April, Pukanic reported to the police an attack by an unidentified assailant who approached him near his apartment house, brandished a handgun and fired, narrowly missing the journalist, the Croatian news Web site Javno reported. The attacker was never apprehended.

Croatia has recently been gripped by a wave of violence and organized crime, according to press reports and CPJ sources. In June, two unidentified men attacked Dusan Miljus, an investigative journalist who covers crime and corruption for the popular daily Jutarnji  List, and beat him with baseball bats in a parking lot near his Zagreb home. He was hospitalized with a concussion, a broken arm, and facial bruises, according to the local press. The crime remains unsolved.