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Croatia9 November 2007

Hague court to question eight Croatian journalists for publishing classified trial documents

Reporters Without Borders today deplored a 7 November decision by the Hague-based International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) to summon eight Croatian journalists for questioning on suspicion of violating its contempt of court rules by publishing classified appendices to indictments against three former Croatian generals for war crimes during the 1991-95 Serbo-Croatian war.

“We reiterate our condemnation of charges, prosecutions or arrests of journalists just for doing their job to provide information and we call on the ICTY not to investigate these eight journalists,” the press freedom organisation said.

The ICTY sent an order to a Zagreb regional court for the eight journalists to be questioned, the Zagreb court’s spokesman, Kresimir Devcic, said. It will decide whether to prosecute them after they have been interviewed. They have not been named but the Hina news agency said three work for the national TV station HRT and the other five work for three leading daily newspapers - Vercernij List, Jutarnij List and the regional Slobodna Dalmacija.

All four news media revealed details from the confidential appendices on 28 May or shortly thereafter.

The appendices to the indictments against former generals Ante Gotovina, Ivan Cermak and Mladen Markac name three former ministers, a former police chief and three former military commanders who allegedly participated in a “joint criminal enterprise” with the former generals. Two of the three former military commanders have been publicly charged by the ICTY and transferred for trial.

After the appendices were leaked, the defence asked the ICTY to declassify them. The court agreed on 31 May, so they are now in the public domain. But this did not stop the ICTY’s judges from opening an investigation into the leak the following day.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time the ICTY has prosecuted journalists. Josip Jovic of the daily Slobodna Dalmacija was fined 20,000 euros on 30 August 2006 for revealing that Croatian President Stipe Mesic had been a protected witness in the trial of Bosnian Croatian Gen. Tihomir Blaskic in 1997. Domagoj Margetic was sentenced to three months in prison and a fine of 10,000 euros on 7 February of this year for revealing the identity of several protected witnesses.

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