3Oct97: Head of Serbian Journalists' Union Beaten by Police

Catherine Fitzpatrick (europe@ccmail.cpj.org)
Fri, 03 Oct 97 13:34:53 EST

October 3, 1997

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 deeply alarmed by the
beating and harassment of Dragutin Rokvic, the general secretary of
the Independent Union of Journalists of Serbia (NUNS), by Belgrade
police during a mass demonstration on October 1.

According to Rokvic, police intentionally targeted journalists who
were covering the demonstration in protest against recent dismissals
by ruling coalition officials of opposition Mayor Zoran Djindjic and
the managers of the popular Studio B TV station.

Rokvic was attacked by police wielding batons at around 9 p.m. as he
stood with a group of colleagues on a street corner in central
Belgrade near the demonstration. He was hit repeatedly with the batons
and kicked in the legs. The officers threw Rokvic to the ground and
handcuffed him. Rokvic and several of his colleagues were taken to the
city's police headquarters, where they were questioned. They were told
they would face criminal charges for allegedly throwing stones and
insulting the police officers. Rokvic suffered a broken hand.

During a news conference the next day, Rokvic maintained that police
deliberately targeted journalists as they tried to disperse the crowd
of protesters. The union leader called on all journalists who were
harassed by police and prevented from reporting to file complaints to
his organization so that NUNS could initiate legal action against
police officers responsible for excessive use of force.

As a non-partisan organization of journalists dedicated to defending
the internationally-recognized rights of our colleagues around the
world, CPJ condemns such violent actions by law enforcement officers
against journalists practicing their profession. This incident
violates all international norms on press freedoms, as well as Your
Excellency's pledge to CPJ to guarantee the rights of all journalists
and media organizations in your country to work freely and safely. The
CPJ urges you to immediately conduct a vigorous investigation of the
actions of the Belgrade police on October 1 and bring those
responsible for beating and harassing journalists to justice.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter. We look forward
to your reply.


William A. Orme, Jr.
Executive Director