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Zagreb daily’s crime correspondent beaten with baseball bats

Battered for his reporting: A Croatian reporter who exposed a series of organised crime and corruption cases has been beaten with baseball bats in front of his home in an assault the president condemned as an attack on media freedom. Dusan Miljus, of the Jutarnji List daily, was jumped on by two men at a parking lot on Monday evening. He was taken to hospital with concussion, a broken arm and facial injuries.Photo: javno.com

A Croatian reporter who exposed a series of organised crime and corruption cases has been beaten with baseball bats in front of his home in an assault the president condemned as an attack on media freedom.

Dusan Miljus, who covers organised crime and corruption for the popular Croatian daily Jutarnji List, was assaulted by two unidentified men in a parking lot near his house in Zagreb on Monday evening. Miljus was hospitalised with a concussion, a broken arm, and facial injuries, local press reported.

“We are appalled by this vicious attack on our colleague Dusan Miljus,” CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said. “We call on the authorities to promptly look into the assault on Miljus and bring those responsible to justice. Crime reporters must be safe to pursue investigative stories in order to keep the public informed.”

Renata Ivanovic, president of the Croatian Investigative Journalists Association, spoke to Miljus and told CPJ that the journalist believes he was followed by men on a motorcycle just prior to the attack. Miljus could not see faces of his assailants because they wore helmets, he said.

Sanja Modric, an editor at Jutarnji List, told CPJ that the assault was retaliation by the mafia for Miljus’ coverage of organised crime and its connection to politicians. Miljus often wrote and spoke about court trials and murder investigations.

Modric told CPJ that after Miljus covered the murder of a local mafia member last December, another daily, Vecernji List, published an obituary for the journalist. The newspaper later apologised, saying it had been a mistake. “It was not an accident, but another warning for Miljus and his colleagues,” Modric said. According to Modric, Miljus most recently investigated illegal arms production and trafficking in Croatia.

Mladen Plese, Jutarnji List’s editor-in-chief, told CPJ the newspaper demanded and received a meeting with Prime Minister Ivo Sanader and his government. Police subsequently assigned two officers to guard Miljus’ hospital ward.

“They promised to investigate the attack but it is just a promise,” Plese told CPJ. “Police failed to investigate death threats Miljus has been receiving and they never offered him protection.”

Sofia City Prosecutor Nikolai Kokinov told the popular television channel bTV that authorities had offered “every possible protection as legislated by the code of criminal procedure” to Stoev, but the writer had refused.

Prime Minister Ivo Sanader, who held an emergency meeting with the national association of journalists on Tuesday, said his government would do its utmost to find the perpetrators, according to a Reuters report. "Democracy rests on the right to information. Therefore, we have to pay special attention to protection of journalists ... Intimidation of journalists is particularly dangerous for society," Sanader said.

President Stjepan Mesic said the incident was "an attack on investigative journalism, but also on media freedom in general".

“We call for a police investigation, which—as far as we know—has not yet been ordered,” Reporters sans Frontières (RSF) reacted. “The authorities must do everything possible to identify those who ordered and carried out this attack, which could have had even more serious consequences for Miljus.” It continued, "Croatia is a candidate for European Union membership and cannot allow this kind of attack on the press to take place without reacting.”

Date posted: June 5, 2008 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 470