CPJ condemns attack on investigative journalist in Croatia

New York, June 2, 2015–The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the attack on investigative reporter Zeljko Peratovic who, according to news reports, was beaten in his home in Luka Pokupska, near the city of Karlovac, and calls on Croatian authorities to investigate if journalism was the motive.

Peratovic was standing outside his house on May 28 when three men in a car started yelling at him, according to news reports that cited the journalist’s account. Peratovic said that the men mentioned reports he had written on alleged illegal gravel excavation, regional news site Balkan Insight reported. He said the men followed him into his house and beat him up, Balkan Insight reported. The journalist was treated in hospital for concussion and bruising, the local press reported.

“We call on Croatian authorities to thoroughly investigate the attack on Zeljko Peratovic and to consider his journalism as a primary motive,” CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said. “A credible investigation is essential to send a message that attacks on journalists who tackle sensitive subjects such as corruption and crime will not be tolerated with impunity.”

Although Peratovic’s attackers mentioned his reporting on illegal excavation allegations, the freelance journalist said he believes his reporting on the murder of a dissident immigrant in Germany, in which members of the then-Yugoslav secret service were allegedly involved, could have been a motive. Two former intelligence agents from Croatia are currently on trial in Munich on charges of involvement in the 1983 murder, the local press said.

According to reports, three people have been arrested in connection with the attack. Reporters Without Borders condemned the attack on Peratovic, who works as a correspondent for the press freedom organization, and said authorities have not yet made a statement about the attack. Sasa Lekovic, head of the Croatian Journalists’ Association (HND), described the attack on Peratovic as a “classic example of how professionals threaten someone,” the Croatian daily Vecernji List reported. Peratovic was presented with an award by the journalists’ association in 2014 for his reporting on corruption.