5Sept97: Death Threats to Croatian Newspaper

Catherine Fitzpatrick (europe@ccmail.cpj.org)
Fri, 05 Sep 97 19:29:57 EST

September 5, 1997

His Excellency Franjo Tudjman
President of the Republic of Croatia
Zagreb, Croatia
Fax: 011-385-1-443-075/444-532

Your Excellency,

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is greatly alarmed by a
series of death threats this week against the editor and staff of the
Feral Tribune, the independent Croatian daily in Split. The threats
were apparently made in reaction to the newspaper's publication on
September 1 of an interview with a former Croatian policeman who
confessed to murdering ethnic Serbs during Croatia's war for

Viktor Ivancic, the editor of the Feral Tribune, told CPJ that his
office received up to 20 telephone calls on the day his newspaper ran
the interview with Miro Bajramovic, a 40-year-old policeman, who
admitted to killing 72 people, chiefly ethnic Serbs, at the beginning
of the war in 1991. Ivancic said the anonymous callers threatened to
kill him, his children, and other Feral Tribune staff members. He said
there were several more threatening calls in the days that followed.

Although the editorial staff of the Feral Tribune has been subjected
to numerous threats for its hard-hitting reporting in the past,
Ivancic said the death threats made this week troubled him more
because of the "shocking" nature of Bajramovic's confession.
Bajramovic and three other former members of his wartime paramilitary
police unit, which he claimed carried out ethnic cleansing in the
Croatian countryside, were arrested by Croatian police soon after the
interview appeared. But other former members of the unit implicated by
Bajramovic in the interview remain free, said Ivancic. Although he
could only speculate about the identity of the anonymous callers,
Ivancic pointed to lingering anti-Serb and nationalistic sentiment in
Croatia as possible motives for the threats, as well.

As a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to defending the
universally recognized rights of our colleagues around the world, CPJ
is deeply concerned about the safety of the editorial staff of the
Feral Tribune. We welcome the swift response of local police to
Ivancic's complaint about death threats on September 1. Officers were
reportedly cooperative and promised to watch over the newspaper's
premises. It is the Croatian government's responsibility to guarantee
that the staff of the Feral Tribune and all journalists in the country
can work freely and safely. Such death threats against journalists for
practicing their profession create a climate of fear and intimidation
that stifles freedom of expression and the press.

Thank you for your attention. We look forward to your comments.


William A. Orme, Jr.
Executive Director

Ambassador Miomir Zuzul
Ambassador Peter W. Galbraith