Journalists in Croatia are being violently targeted for trying to expose the truth about war crimes and corruption, while the country's leaders fail to protect them.
Several reporters have faced intimidation and beatings and in October, Ivo Pukanic, owner of the Croatian weekly Nacional, was killed by a car bomb in Zagreb following his newspaper's investigations into organized crime in the former Yugoslavia.
Amnesty International has called on the Croatian authorities to address threats against journalists. The demand comes as Drago Hedl, one of the top journalists in the country, received new threats to his life following his investigation pointing to the involvement of a high level Croatian politician in the killing of Croatian Serbs in the town of Osijek during the 1991-1995 war.
"The threats against Drago Hedl are a clear attempt to discourage him and other journalists who have been playing a crucial role in exposing human rights violations from making their findings public," says Nicola Duckworth, Director of Amnesty International's Europe team. "The Croatian authorities need to lead by example and investigate these threats and bring the perpetrators to justice."
Drago Hedl has received at least four death threats in relation to investigative articles he has written about war crimes committed in Osijek. On Thursday, he received new threats in the form of text messages sent to his mobile phone. Drago Hedl was granted police protection after the incident.
Drago Hedl is one of Croatia's most prominent journalists. He has won many international awards for his investigative work, reporting on war crimes committed during the 1991-1995 war in Croatia. He extensively covers war crimes committed in the Osijek area.
Journalists in Croatia have been targeted throughout 2008. In June, Dušan Miljuš, a journalist for the Croatian daily Jutarnji List, was severely beaten by unknown individuals in front of his house in Zagreb following his reports on links between politics and illegal business activities.
In November, a fake car bomb was planted under Hrvoje Appelt’s car. This is believed to be related to his investigation of oil smuggling, which reportedly involved organized crime structures from other South-East European countries.
To Amnesty International’s knowledge, no investigation has been concluded into these attacks, and none of those responsible has been brought to justice.
"We urge the Croatian authorities to conduct a prompt, impartial and effective investigation to ensure that those responsible for such threats are brought to justice. We are also calling on the authorities to take effective measures to address the increasing intimidation and sometimes fatal attacks," says Nicola Duckworth.