BIRN’s new Last Despatches series documents some of the 140 reporters and other media workers who were killed during and after the 1990s wars in the Balkans – some of them foreigners who came to the region to cover the conflicts, but most of them citizens of the warring republics.
Some were killed while reporting from the front lines, while others were gunned down in the streets of their hometowns, or murdered in their own offices. Amid the hysteria of nationalist unrest, journalists were seen by some as enemies who reported inconvenient truths.
So far, only one person has been convicted of responsibility for any of these killings – Serb paramilitary boss Dragan Vasiljkovic, alias ‘Captain Dragan’, who was found guilty of an attack in Croatia in which a German journalist died.
The lack of any other convictions shows that impunity for violence against reporters and other media workers has persisted for decades after the Balkan wars ended.
Last Despatches series tells the stories of some of these reporters, and highlights how attempts to secure justice for them have not yet succeeded – mainly because of official negligence or disinterest, or sometimes because their deaths still raise questions about people with connections to the highest levels of power in the Balkans today.
The series begins with reports on four prominent cases, with more profiles to follow in the coming months:
Kjasif Smajlovic Courageous Bosnian Reporter Refused to Flee
Bosnian reporter Kjasif Smajlovic was murdered in his office in Zvornik in 1992 as Serb forces took control over the town, but his killers, who smashed his skull with his typewriter, have never been investigated. Read the full story here.
Slavko Curuvija Serbian Opposition Editor Spied On and Assassinated
Serbian opposition editor and publisher Slavko Curuvija was gunned down outside his apartment during the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999. Now four former Serbian State Security officers are on trial for killing him. Read the full story here.
Shefki Popova Kosovo Reporter’s Killers Enjoy State of Impunity
Kosovo journalist Shefki Popova was shot outside his house in 2000, but like all the ethnic Albanian and Serb journalists who were murdered or disappeared in the wartime and post-war period in Kosovo, his killers have never been prosecuted. Read the full story here.
Viktor Nogin & Gennadiy Kurinnoy Russians’ Murders in Croatia Shrouded in Mystery
Russian reporters Viktor Nogin and Gennadiy Kurinnoy were shot at a checkpoint in Croatia in 1991, but the truth about their deaths has yet to be fully established despite lengthy investigations pointing to rebel Serbs as the perpetrators. Read the full story here.
The Last Despatches series is part of BIRN’s Transitional Justice Initiative, co-funded by the Kingdom of The Netherlands and the European Commission.