CJFE urges that harassment of Croatian newspaper cease

Tuesday, June 22, 1999

CJFE urges that harassment of Croatian newspaper cease

22 June 1999

His Excellency Franjo Tudjman
President of Croatia
Zagreb, Republic of Croatia
Fax: 011-385-1-456-5208

Your Excellency,

On behalf of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), a non-governmental organization which promotes free expression worldwide, I wish to protest against the harassment of the independent weekly newspaper "Nacional"'s editor and reporter for practicing their profession.

On 2 June 1999, "Nacional" printed a front page article entitled "Nacional" publishes authentic documents about how the soccer team ‘Croatia' won the championship: Under Tudjman's orders, SZUP fixed the result of the Croatian soccer championship." The article, written by Ivo Pukanic, editor-in-chief of "Nacional" and Robert Bajrusi, a reporter, claimed that Croatia's secret service agency (SZUP)coerced referees to favour "Croatia" in national competition. The article also alleged that SZUP wiretapped sports officials and journalists. Facsimiles of allegedly authentic SZUP documents were printed as well.

On 7 June, both Pukanic and Bajrusi were summoned to the police station and questioned about the source of the article, which they did not reveal. Shortly thereafter, police searched the offices of "Nacional" and the homes of Pukanic and Bajrusi for classified documents of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The following day, police searched the home of Miroslav Separovic, a former justice minister who resigned at the beginning of this year. It was thought that Separovic had some part in the preparation for the article.

In my opinion, government efforts to pressure these journalists to reveal their sources is a violation of their rights and the threat of criminal prosecution presents a transparent attempt to use legislation guarding state secrets to stifle criticism. Although the revelations of corruption may be scandalous and embarrassing for the government, they in no way endanger state security.

I would like to remind your government of its obligation to adhere to Article 19 of the Universal Declaration for Human Rights which embodies the freedom "to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers." "Nacional" has long been the target of government efforts to silence independent media and there are currently about 100 criminal and civil libel suits pending against it.

I urge you to personally see that the harassment of "Nacional" cease, and that any charges brought against Pukanic and Bajrusi in connection with the 2 June article be dropped immediately.

Yours truly,

Wayne Sharpe
Executive Director

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