CROATIA: Safety of Ivo Pukanic, director of the leading Croatian news magazine, Nacional

CROATIA, CROATIA, 31/10/2001, 14:35

 To:

Stipe Mesic
President of Croatia
Zagreb
Fax: + 385 1 45 65 159

Milo Djukanovic
President of Montenegro
Podgorica
FRY
Fax: + 381 81 245 849

CC:

Sime Lucin
Minister of Internal Affairs, Croatia. Fax: +385 1 6122 771

Andrija Jovicevic
Minister of Internal Affairs, Montenegro. Fax: +381 81 246 779

Vesna Perovic
President of the Parlament, Montenegro. Fax: + 381 81 242 641

Zoran Zivkovic
Minister of Internal Affairs, FR Yugoslavia. Fax: +381 11 636 314   

Your Excellencies,

The Vienna-based South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South Eastern Europe, and an affiliate of the International Press Institute (IPI), is deeply concerned for the safety of Ivo Pukanic, director of theleading Croatian news magazine, Nacional.

According to different information before SEEMO, several groups are preparing Pukanic's assassination. The threat is the result of several investigative reports published in Nacional about the connection between Montenegrin officials and cigarette smugglers in the Balkans. SEEMO has also been informed that there was an attempt to bribe Nacional into halting the investigation of the so-called "Balkan tobacco mafia".

In addition, according to SEEMO's sources, Vladislav Asanin, the former editor-in-chief of the Montenegrin daily, Dan, is being charged with libel by the Montenegrin president after his newspaper reprinted articles first published in Nacional about the cigarette smugglers.

Asanin's trial is due to take place on 2 November 2001 in Podgorica. It is the second trial against Asanin since Dan started reprinting articles from Nacional. In the first trial, on 3 September 2001, Asanin was given a five-month suspended sentence for criminal defamation.SEEMO notes that, prior to May 2001, Dan had reprinted some 60 articles from various foreign media about the link between the Balkan tobacco mafia and Montenegrin officials and that there had been no reaction from the officials in Podgorica before Dan began reprinting articles from Nacional.

SEEMO therefore urges Your Excellencies to do everything in your powers to ensure the safety of Ivo Pukanic and all other journalists working in your countries. We further urge Your Excellency, the President of Montenegro, to authorise an immediate and thorough investigation into the alleged plans to assassinate Ivo Pukanic and to bring those responsible to justice. Finally, SEEMO urges the authorities in Montenegro to stop their harassment of journalists working for Dan and to recognise that journalists have an essential role to play in any democratic society.

Yours sincerely,

Oliver Vujovic

Secretary General

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