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Croatia26 October 2007

Release of journalist held on state secrets charge

Independent journalist Zeljko Peratovic, 41, was freed on 18 October, one day after he was arrested at his home on a charge of revealing state secrets, for which the maximum sentence is three years in prison. His arrest was prompted by posts on his blog (peratovic.net and peratovic.blog.hr) about war crimes in the southeastern village of Gospic in the 1990s, in which he referred to the existence of a video of witness accusing former defence minister Gojko Susak (now deceased) and a parliamentary deputy president of involvement. Reporters Without Borders issued a release at the time of his arrest firmly condemning it as a press freedom violation.


18.10.07 : War crimes reporter arrested for revealing state secret after search of home

Reporters Without Borders strongly condemns the arrest of independent journalist Zeljko Peratovic after a raid on his Zagreb home yesterday in which police seized files and computers. He has been charged with revealing a state secret.

“Journalists’ homes should enjoy the protection necessary for the confidentiality of their sources, without which they cannot work properly,” the press freedom organisation said. “If the authorities want to identify the sources of leaks, they should investigate the members of the national security services instead of harassing journalists whose job is to communicate all information of public interest.”

Police arrived at Peratovic’s home at 7 a.m. yesterday and spent seven hours searching it. They then invited him to accompany them for an informal interview which ended at 8 p.m. with his being taken into custody on a charge of revealing a state secret. A spokesman for the prosecutor’s office said Peratovic was the subject of a criminal investigation but prosecutors had yet to decide whether he would be brought to trial. The charge carries a maximum sentence of three years in prison.

Reporters Without Borders has been told his arrest was prompted by posts on his blog (peratovic.net et peratovic.blog.hr/) relating to war crimes in the village of Gospic in the 1990s.

In one of his posts, Peratovic wrote about the account of a Gospic resident who witnessed the atrocities that is to be broadcast in the “Brisani Prostor” programme on public television this evening. He said the programme contained authentic elements and accused former defence minister Gojko Susak (now deceased) and one of the leaders of the ruling Democratic Union Party (HDZ), Darko Milinovic, of being responsible for the atrocities. Milinovic heads the HDZ’s candidate list for the parliamentary elections scheduled for 25 November.

Peratovic is known for his reporting on the death of Milan Levar, an International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia protected witness whose identity was revealed by the police. Levar was killed by a car bomb on 28 August 2000 in Gospic. Peratovic was questioned as a witness during the investigation into Levar’s murder as he was one of the last people to see him alive.

Peratovic has worked for several daily newspapers, the latest of which was Vjesnik. His investigative reporting on war crimes has got him into a lot of trouble. He lost his job, he has been physically attacked and he is regarded as a traitor by many of his compatriots, who refuse to accept that Croats could have committed war crimes.

In 2003, he received a press freedom prize from the Austrian section of Reporters Without Borders. He contacted Reporters Without Borders in 2005 to say he was being closely watched.




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