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Croatia28 November 2008

Drago Held under police protection after receiving fresh death threats

Reporters Without Borders today condemned renewed death threats made against Drago Held, a journalist on the daily Jutamji List, a specialist in the recent history of Croatia, and particularly war crimes during the civil war in ex-Yugoslavia (1991-1995).

“It seems evident that journalists who report in war crimes have become the favourite targets of those who want to have their responsibilities in the conflict forgotten”, the worldwide press freedom organisation said. “It is essential that the press can do their work in the struggle against impunity and this should be supported beyond the country’s borders”, it added.

“We offer our support to our Croatian colleagues who are going through difficult times. We urge the authorities to redouble efforts to identify those who made these threats and to continue police protection if it is sought”.

Drago Held, was put under permanent police protection after receiving a voice message on his mobile phone yesterday warning him that he would be soon be “massacred”.

He has worked for a long time investigating war crimes committed during the civil war from 1991 to 1995. He received an earlier death threat in February 2008 in the shape of a photo of a human skull accompanied by a letter advising “silence”. This warning arrived a few days after he wrote articles, in the magazine Feral Tribune about a former Croatian general, Branimir Glavas, suspected of having killed Serbian civilians in Osijek in 1991. In one of the latest articles in Jutarnji List, Drago Held returned to the case of Branimir Glavas, who was elected a deputy in the November 2007 legislative elections. The journalist also gave evidence at the opening of the trial of Glavas in 2005.

This latest incident comes against a background of violence that has shaken the Croatian capital for several weeks. Ivo Pukanic, editor of the weekly Nacional, and his colleague Niko Franjic, marketing director of the NCL group, were killed in a car bombing on 24 October. Police bomb disposal services on 21 November found a dummy plastic bomb under the car of journalist Hrvoje Appelt, of the weekly Globus after it was parked outside the anti-corruption agency (USKOKO). Police put Appelt under protection. He said he had also received death threats since September 2008.

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