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Attacks on the Press in 1996 - Bosnia and Herzegovina

Publisher Committee to Protect Journalists
Publication Date February 1997
Cite as Committee to Protect Journalists, Attacks on the Press in 1996 - Bosnia and Herzegovina, February 1997, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/47c564f823.html [accessed 19 September 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

After the signing of the December 1995 Dayton Peace Accords, local media geared up to cover the campaigns for the fall 1996 elections. As illustrated in CPJ's Briefing on Press Freedom in Bosnia and Herzegovina Before the September 14 Elections (see excerpt), the state and ruling parties largely controlled coverage inside Bosnia during the campaigns, and censorship plagued the minimal independent coverage. Authorities placed severe restrictions on freedom of movement for both foreign and local reporters among the three entities of Bosnia: the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina (the Sarajevo-based government); the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (the Muslim-Croat Federation, including the Croat-controlled "mini-state" of Herzeg-Bosna, which was officially dismantled in December); and the Republika Srpska (Serb Republic).

After the elections, conditions remained tense among the ethnic groups, and journalists were often victims of the unrest. In October, Serb police attacked Mike Kirsch, an American free-lance journalist, while he was filming a destroyed Muslim village in Republika Srpska, confiscating his film and camera. The Peace Implementation Force (IFOR) later retrieved and returned Kirsch's camera.

Legal maneuvers also silenced journalists. When Bosnian Serb President Biljana Plavsic sacked the Bosnian Serb military leader Ratko Mladic in November, authorities also shut down an independent radio station with close ties to Mladic, and confiscated its equipment. The station had a reputation for critical reporting on the Bosnian Serb ruling party. Also in Republika Srpska, officials of the ruling party brought a libel suit against two reporters from Alternativa, a weekly independent newspaper, for an article that described corruption among officials of the governing Serbian Democratic Party.

A new television network, sponsored by the European Union, the United States, Japan, and the Open Society Institute in an effort to overcome heavily biased state-sponsored reporting, seemed to gain momentum by the end of the year. Planners originally intended to provide a single Bosnia-wide source of campaign coverage during the fall, but the Open Broadcasting Network (OBN) took longer than expected to overcome the Sarajevo-based Bosnian government's bureaucratic obstacles and difficulties with personnel in order to link four smaller stations in Sarajevo, Mostar, Tuzla, and Zenica. The network officially went on the air with only a week to spare before the elections, and outside the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, its broadcasts reached only the large cities in Republika Srpska, and Herzeg-Bosna. By year's end, the project was close to linking an additional bureau in Republika Srpska.

February 8
Srdjan Ilic, Associated Press (AP), HARASSED
Hidajet Delic, Bosnian Government News Agency, IMPRISONED

Ilic, an AP photographer based in Belgrade, and Delic, a photographer with the Bosnian Government News Agency who also works for AP, were arrested near a bridge connecting Serb- and Bosnian government-held parts of Sarajevo. Both journalists were taken first to Grbavica, a Bosnian Serb-controlled suburb of Sarajevo, and then to Serb police headquarters in Pale. Ilic was released the next day, but Delic, who was carrying negatives of photographs taken in Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic's office, was kept in detention. Bosnian Serb authorities accused Delic of having served in the Bosnian government's army in 1992 and of having ordered the murder of a Serb that summer. Delic's colleagues at AP's Belgrade office informed CPJ that the accusations were false since he was excused from military service due to his work at AP. CPJ wrote a letter of protest to Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, urging him to release Delic immediately and to respect the status of journalists as civilian noncombatants. CPJ Chair Kati Marton then wrote to Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, calling on him to make every effort to ensure Delic's immediate release. On March 25, Delic was set free in Pale, less than 24 hours after a Serb reporter, Ninko Djuric, was released by the Bosnian government. Djuric, who works for the Pale-based Bosnian Serb weekly Javnost, was arrested on Sept. 10, 1995, on the battlefield in Vozuca in central Bosnia. No reasons were given for his arrest.

March 29
Srecko Latal, Associated Press (AP), ATTACKED, HARASSED

Latal, a Bosnian reporter for AP, was attacked by a crowd of Serbs when he went to investigate clashes between Serbs and Bosnian Federation police near Sarajevo. The crowd then forced Latal into a Serb police car. At this point, Italian soldiers with the Peace Implementation Force (IFOR) reportedly intervened and took Latal out of the Serb police car. The soldiers searched him, took him inside an armored personnel carrier, handcuffed him, and returned him to the Serb police, despite the fact that an Agence France-Presse reporter at the scene shouted that Latal was a member of the press. Latal was released three hours later in Serb-held Lukavica. In a letter to IFOR, CPJ protested the Italian soldiers' treatment of Latal.

June
Foreign correspondents, HARASSED

Officials at the press center in Republika Srpska, the Bosnian Serb enclave, were pressuring foreign journalists to accept the translation and escort services of a "bodyguard," who functioned as the government's informer, for a fee of DM100 (US$67). The press center was also charging DM20 (US$13) for a seven-day press pass, according to Frank Havlicek, vice president of industrial relations for the Washington Post, who was in Bosnia and Herzegovina to teach a course. Havlicek said that the purpose of the bodyguard was ostensibly to look out for the numerous land mines remaining in the region, but journalists who refused the service were pursued and harassed by a press center employee sent to enforce the rules.

June 4
Studio 99, CENSORED

The telephone wires of "Hyde Park," a popular call-in talk show broadcast twice a week by Sarajevo's independent radio station Studio 99, went dead just as listeners attempted to discuss the controversial issue of the existence of two armies in the Muslim-Croat Federation. On June 6, the lines went dead again just before a scheduled debate on plans to send an official Bosnian delegation to Belgrade, Yugoslavia, for negotiations on establishing relations with Serbia.

June 30
Miguel Gil Moreno, Associated Press Television (APTV), ATTACKED

Gil Moreno, a cameraman for APTV, was knocked unconscious after being hit in the head and stomach by unidentified assailants while he was filming the arrival in Mostar of Serbs who had been displaced from their homes there. The Serbs were coming to Mostar to vote on whether the city, now divided between Muslims and Croats, should be unified or kept divided. His colleagues said that police who witnessed the beating did nothing to stop it. The colleagues also said they could not identify Gil Moreno's attackers. Gil Moreno, who suffered a minor concussion from the attack, was back at work by July 2.

August
Radio Zid, HARASSED

Radio Zid editors discovered that a new officially sponsored station, Orthodox Radio St. John, broadcasting from Republika Srpska (Serb Republic), was using its frequency, 89.9 FM. As a result, Radio Zid listeners could not tune in to the station. Initially, Radio Zid increased its kilowatts, but it received a letter from the commander of IFOR, the peace implementation force, saying that Radio Zid was interfering with military communications. The radio station then appealed to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), but was told that the OSCE could not stop the Serb station from broadcasting. The radio executives then appealed to the Bosnian Ministry of Culture to give them a new, unused frequency, 89.7, but they received no answer.

August 6
Zivko Savkovic, Alternativa, LEGAL ACTION
Pavle Stanisic, Alternativa, LEGAL ACTION

Editor in chief Stanisic and managing editor Savkovic, of the weekly independent newspaper Alternativa in Doboj, in Republika Srpska, were charged in connection with a July 17 article that claimed officials of the ruling Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) of Republika Srpska had blocked several opposition election meetings in Grbavica. A Doboj court convicted Savkovic on Nov. 7 under Article 80, Paragraphs 1 and 2 of the Criminal Code of Republika Srpska, for transmitting false material injurious to the "honor and reputation" of another. Savkovic was handed a one-month suspended sentence. Stanisic was found not guilty.

August 12
Free Election Radio Network (FERN), CENSORED

The Bosnian Serb Ministry of Transport and Communications banned the Free Election Radio Network (FERN), sponsored by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), from broadcasting its election radio program via the Lisina transmitter, which reaches Banja Luka and surrounding Serb-controlled areas. The ministry said that an "inspection revealed the transmitter was being used without the permission of the respective Republika Srpska ministry." FERN employees told CPJ that they continue to broadcast and that the transmitter in question is protected by IFOR, the peace implementation force, so that media groups may use it. FERN also said that the Bosnian Serb ministry has not proceeded with any further action since FERN ignored the ban.

August 15
Azenina Mulahuseinovic, Oslobodjenje, HARASSED

Nedzad Mulahuseinovic, the husband of Azenina Mulahuseinovic, a correspondent in the Muslim-controlled town of Tesanj for the Sarajevo daily Oslobodjenje, was severely beaten by unidentified assailants in Tesanj. Azenina had reported several stories about the harassment of local opposition political parties. Her editors believe that her husband was targeted because of her coverage of violence leading up to Sept. 14 national and regional elections.

August 28
IN-TV, HARASSED

Police in Sarajevo surrounded and blocked entry to the main studios of IN-TV, a new foreign-sponsored Bosnian station that links five existing stations together in one network. When IN-TV moved its operations to another building, Bosnian officials warned the new landlord not to cooperate with the station. IN-TV, known as "Carl Bildt TV," after High Representative Carl Bildt, had been plagued with other difficulties as well before finally going on the air Sept. 7, one week before general elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The chief obstacle to the project was the Bosnian government's temporary refusal to suspend a regulation that prevented IN-TV from linking the frequencies of the five smaller private stations. The regulation also prohibited IN-TV from using several transmission points to provide wider reception.

October 11
Mike Kirsch, Free-lancer, ATTACKED, HARASSED

Kirsch, an American free-lance journalist and cameraman working for Insight News Television Ltd. (INTV) of Great Britain, was attacked by 10 Serb police officers with AK-47 assault rifles. Kirsch was videotaping a destroyed house in Jusici, a Muslim village now under the control of the Bosnian Serb Republic, when Serb security police rushed toward him from around the house, ordered him to stop filming, and threatened to shoot him. They then shoved and kicked him while they tried to take his camera. Kirsch said police knocked him to the ground, spit on him, and pointed their guns at him. He said he tossed his camera to a Danish International Police Task Force (IPTF) officer, but a Serb policeman pointed his gun at the Danish officer and ordered him to give up the camera. A U.S. Army cameraman, operating under the command of the Peace Implementation Force (IFOR), filmed the entire scene. IFOR also retrieved Kirsch's camera the next day and returned it to him, but the videocassette he had been using to film the house was missing. Kirsch and INTV requested copies of IFOR's videotape of the incident, but their requests were denied. CPJ appealed to top officials at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), IFOR, the Pentagon, the U.S. Army, and the U.S. Secretary of State to ensure that the IFOR video of the attack be released. CPJ also wrote to Serb Republic President Momcilo Krajisnik, condemning the attack, demanding that Kirsch's video be returned, and calling for an end to any further attacks on members of the press. On Oct. 23, IFOR officials informed CPJ that they released copies of the IFOR video to Kirsch and INTV and that disciplinary action would be taken against the local police commander responsible for the officers who attacked Kirsch.

November 13
Radio Krajina, CENSORED

Bosnian Serb police shut down Radio Krajina, an independent station with close ties to the recently sacked military leader Ratko Mladic, and confiscated the station's transmitter. Radio Krajina was run by Lt. Col. Milovan Milutinovic, formerly Mladic's spokesman. Mladic and other Bosnian Serb army officers were dismissed on Nov. 9 by Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic. The radio station began broadcasting in the summer of 1995 and was critical of the Bosnian Serb ruling party and authorities.

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