Media repression escalates in Kosovo

Chrystyna Lapychak (
Fri, 20 Mar 98 17:18:11 -0500

330 Seventh Avenue, New York, NY 10001 USA Phone: (212) 465-1004 Fax:
(212) 465-9568 Web: E-Mail:

March 20, 1998

His Excellency Slobodan Milosevic
President of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
Fax: +381-11-656-862

Your Excellency,

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is greatly alarmed by your
government's ongoing repressive measures against independent and foreign media
in Serbia and Kosovo.

At least two television cameramen working for Western agencies were beaten by
plainclothes policemen while attempting to film mass demonstrations in Prishtina
on May 19. Taras Protsyuk, a Ukrainian camera operator working for Reuters TV,
was attacked from behind as he shot footage of a weeping Albanian woman who said
she was struck by police during a mass rally. Protsyuk fell to the ground and
his video camera was smashed. The assailants repeatedly punched him in the face
until his producer, Glen Felgate, managed to pull him away. He suffered minor
injuries. Michel Rousez, a cameraman for RTBF, French-language Belgian
Radio-Television, was assaulted while covering a demonstration near the
University of Prishtina. He was hospitalized as a result of the incident. The
Associated Press reported that two other journalists working for Western
agencies were attacked on the same day, but their correspondent in Prishtina had
no details.

The incidents are the latest in an escalating round of violence and intimidation
against journalists and media organizations attempting to cover the violent
crackdown against Albanian separatists in Kosovo launched two weeks ago. At
least six journalists were beaten covering public protests against the crackdown
on March 2, among them Agron Bajrami, a cultural editor at the Albanian-language
daily Koha Ditore. That day, the independent newspaper's Prishtina offices were
ransacked and several staff members were beaten. Police searched the office for
the video camera and tapes of police brutality against demonstrators filmed by
the paper's camaraman, Fatos Berisha, who fell out its second-story window as he
fled from them. He was hospitalized with a broken leg. Since then, reporters
from Koha Ditore and other news media have been threatened and harassed while
covering demonstrations. Koha Ditore has endured several random financial
inspections by various government agencies over the past two weeks. Reporters
and camera crews were barred from areas were the police raids took place for
several days.

On March 10-11, the editors of five independent dailies in Belgrade were called
in for questioning by the city prosecutor's office in an apparent act of
intimidation in
response to their coverage of the crackdown in Kosovo. Mjedrak Tmusic, the
Belgrade city prosecutor, accused the editors of Danas, Blic, Dnevni Telegraf,
Demokratiya and Nasa Borba of encouraging terrorism in the predominantly
Albanian Kosovo by referring to the Albanians killed by police as "victims" or
simply "Albanians," rather than as "terrorists" in their headlines. Serbian
authorities and regime-controlled media openly called on the press to give only
the official interpretation of events and use ethnic slurs against Albanians,
reminiscent of the hate speech spread by the regime to foment the conflict in

As a nonpartisan organization dedicated to defending the universally recognized
rights of our colleagues
around the world, CPJ is deeply troubled by the pattern of intimidation and
repressive measures aimed
against independent news media by your government. These tactics violate all
international norms on press freedom, and only serve to further isolate your
government from the community of nations. We remind you of your personal pledge
to Kati Marton, CPJ's then-chairwoman, during her December 7, 1996, meeting with
you in Belgrade, to support a free press and the right to publish and broadcast
freely in the Federal Republic
of Yugoslavia. All of your government's recent measures blatantly contradict
your written promise to us
to respect the rights of journalists to freely and safely practice their

Thank you for your attention. We await your comments.


William A. Orme, Jr.
Executive Director