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Attacks on the Press in 2008 - Europe and Central Asia Developments

Publisher Committee to Protect Journalists
Publication Date 10 February 2009
Cite as Committee to Protect Journalists, Attacks on the Press in 2008 - Europe and Central Asia Developments, 10 February 2009, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4992c499a.html [accessed 24 April 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.

BULGARIA

  • Two unidentified gunmen killed Georgi Stoev, a popular writer and author of a series of books on the origins and rise of Bulgaria's criminal underworld. Stoev, 35, was walking on a busy street near the Pliska Hotel in the capital, Sofia, on April 7 when both assailants fired at him, according to the independent news Web site Mediapool. Stoev had recently given a series of interviews announcing his willingness to testify against a well-known mafia boss, according to local news reports. Stoev was a retired member of the notorious racketeering group VIS, which extorted money from private businesses in the guise of providing them with insurance. He had written nine books, all chronicling the history of organized crime.
  • Four men brutally attacked Ognian Stefanov, editor of the investigative news Web site Frognews, as he was leaving a Sofia restaurant around 11 p.m. on September 22. Local news reports said assailants approached Stefanov, asked his name, and then beat him with hammers. The editor was hospitalized with broken arms and legs, a concussion, and severe blood loss, Stefanov's deputy, Aleksandar Ivanov, told CPJ. Stefanov and his family had recently received threatening phone calls, Ivanov told CPJ. Frognews published investigations into the activities of public officials and state security agents. No arrests were reported.

CROATIA

  • On June 2, two unidentified men attacked Dusan Miljus, an investigative reporter who covered organized crime and corruption for the popular Croatian daily Jutarnji List. Reuters reported that two assailants had beaten Miljus with baseball bats near his house in the capital, Zagreb. The journalist was hospitalized with a concussion, a broken arm, and facial injuries, according to local news reports. Sanja Modric, an editor at Jutarnji List, told CPJ that she believed the assault was mob-inspired retaliation for Miljus' coverage of organized crime and its connection to politicians. She said Miljus had recently investigated illegal arms production and trafficking in Croatia. No arrests were made in the case.
  • Ivo Pukanic, owner and editorial director of the Zagreb-based political weekly Nacional, and Niko Franjic, the paper's marketing director, were killed when a bomb exploded under Pukanic's car, according to local news reports. Pukanic and Franjic were approaching the car, parked outside the newspaper's offices, when the bomb exploded October 23. A week later, Croatian police detained and brought charges against three suspects – all Croatian citizens – and issued international arrest warrants for two fugitive suspects. On November 1, police told journalists that they had identified one fugitive as the person who planted the bomb and that they were pursuing him in cooperation with Bosnian authorities. Local press reports identified the suspect as a former member of a Serbian paramilitary group called the Red Berets.

FRANCE

  • Police in Paris detained and abused Vittorio de Filippis, a former editor of the popular left-wing newspaper Liberation, according to international press reports. Police officers came to the editor's home early the morning of November 28, manhandled him in front of his family, and then brought him to a police station for a lengthy interrogation concerning a 2006 libel case, news reports said. The journalist was questioned for five hours without a lawyer, and he was forced to undergo two strip searches, The Washington Post reported. Neither police nor Magistrate Muriel Josie would comment, the Post said. Minister of Justice Rachida Dati defended the handling of the case, saying de Filippis had not responded to earlier court summonses. The libel case was filed by an Internet company executive in connection with a reader comment left on Liberation's Web site in 2008, when de Filippis was editor.

KOSOVO

  • The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague found Baton Haxhiu, editor of the daily Kosovo Express and a 1999 recipient of the CPJ International Press Freedom Award, in contempt of court for naming a protected witness. Ruling on July 24, the tribunal fined Haxhiu 7,000 euros (US$9,000). The witness had given testimony in the war crimes trial of former Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj, according to international press reports. Haxhiu paid the fine but explained that the name of the witness had already been widely available on the Internet. "Instead of going after the sources of the leak, [the tribunal] went after me – a journalist whose job is to inform the public," Haxhiu told CPJ after the indictment. CPJ issued a statement expressing support for Haxhiu as "a journalist we admire" and concern about the tribunal's "assertion of blanket censorship."

ROMANIA

  • On June 11, the Constitutional Court of Romania rejected a measure that would have required broadcasters to air "good news." The bill was adopted by the upper house of Romania's parliament in late June. The court ruled that the legislation – which would have required television and radio stations to devote at least 50 percent of news programming to stories deemed positive – was unconstitutional. The National Audiovisual Council of Romania and the Union of Professional Journalists had opposed the measure.

SLOVAKIA

  • President Ivan Gasparovic signed into law a controversial measure that requires print media to run the public's responses to published material. The measure went into force in June. Publications are subject to fines up to 200,000 korunas (US$8,400) if they fail to print responses, The Prague Post reported. Miklos Harazsti, a press freedom official for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, sharply criticized the law. In a statement, he said: "It is not difficult to imagine where this will lead – newspapers getting flooded with replies from individuals or political forces unable to accept criticism, even when the criticism is well-founded."

TAJIKISTAN

  • The Interior Ministry issued an arrest warrant in September for Dodojon Atovullo, an exiled opposition journalist and editor of the online newspaper Charoh-i-Ruz, according to local press reports. The news agency Asia Plus said the prosecutor general's office had opened a criminal case against Atovullo on the charges of "public calls to a violent change in the constitutional regime," along with defamation and "public insult of the president." The charges carry up to 15 years in prison. At a June news conference in Moscow, Atovullo told journalists that Tajikistan was in a dire economic crisis and on the brink of a civil war, the regional news Web site Ferghana reported. Prosecutor General Bobodzhon Bobokhonov called Atovullo an "information terrorist," Asia Plus reported.
  • The Supreme Court convicted Nasrulla Sharifov in October in connection with the 1995 murder of prominent journalist Muhiddin Olimpur, the Russian news Web site Lenta reported. The court sentenced Sharifov to 15 years in prison on charges of murder, terrorism, and "creation of illegal paramilitary group," Lenta said. Authorities had convicted three accomplices between 2003 and 2007. Olimpur's body was found with a gunshot wound to the head near the University of Tajikistan in Dushanbe in December 1995. Head of the BBC's Persian Service in Tajikistan, Olimpur was among 16 journalists killed during the 1992-97 Tajik civil war.

UKRAINE

  • A court in the capital, Kyiv, convicted three suspects in the 2000 abduction and murder of Internet journalist Georgy Gongadze. In its March 15 verdict, the court sentenced former police officer Nikolai Protasov to 13 years in prison and fellow ex-officers Valery Kostenko and Aleksandr Popovych to 12 years apiece. A fourth suspect – Gen. Aleksei Pukach, who headed the Interior Ministry's criminal investigation department under former President Leonid Kuchma – was being sought on an international arrest warrant in late year. The trial, which began in January 2006, was adjourned several times before reopening for its final stretch in February.
  • The National Television and Radio Broadcasting Council ordered local cable companies to stop rebroadcasting programming from foreign channels that failed to comply with national law limiting commercial content, local press reports said. According to the Moscow-based business daily Kommersant, the council canceled programming by Russia's Channel One, Ren-TV, RTR-Planeta, and TV Center International, as of November 1. Station managers told Kommersant that Ukrainian authorities had never informed them of the alleged violations. Despite the ruling, local cable providers continued to re-broadcast Russian channels, local journalists told CPJ.

UNITED KINGDOM

  • On September 9, Irish police arrested four suspects in the 2001 murder of Martin O'Hagan, an investigative reporter with Dublin's Sunday World, The Associated Press reported. O'Hagan, 51, was killed by gunshots from a passing car outside his home in the Northern Ireland town of Lurgan on September 28, 2001. According to the Belfast Telegraph, investigators concluded in 2006 that O'Hagan had been targeted for writing about drug dealing by Mid Ulster loyalist paramilitaries. Court proceedings began in October and were pending in late year.
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