Serbia convicts ex-intel officers behind journalist assassination | News | DW | 05.04.2019
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Serbia convicts ex-intel officers behind journalist assassination

Press freedom groups have hailed it as the first time "anyone has been convicted of murdering a journalist" in Serbia. But even two decades later, journalists are still facing a hostile environment in the Balkan country.

A Serbian court on Friday sentenced four people to up to 30 years in prison for their involvement in the assassination of journalist and news publisher Slavko Curuvija (pictured above) in 1999.

Former secret police chief Radomir Markovic was handed a 30-year sentence along with Milan Radonjic, who headed Belgrade's intelligence branch at the time. Two other intelligence officers received 20-year sentences, one of them in absentia.

"This is the first time in recent Serbian history that anyone has been convicted of murdering a journalist," said Reporters without Borders (RSF) in a tweet.

"It took 20 years, including four years of judicial proceedings, for the perpetrators of Curuvija's murder to be tried and convicted by a special court for organized crime."

Read more: Serbia: Fighting for journalism ethics

Ratko Romic

Ratko Romic was one of two ex-intelligence officers who were sentenced to 20 years in prison

Hostile environment

In April 1999, Curuvija, who owned two independent newspapers, was shot 14 times near his Belgrade home during the NATO-led intervention against Serbia's ethnic cleansing campaign in the then-province of Kosovo.

In the indictment, it said Curuvijia was killed over his criticism of strongman Slobodan Milosevic. According to Judge Snezana Jovanovic, the four men sentenced on Friday acted "on the orders of an unknown person."

Two decades later, Serbian journalists are struggling with an increasingly hostile environment. Last year, seven of them were physically assaulted and nearly 100 others have been threatened, according to the Independent Association of Journalists.

"Serbia has become a place where practicing journalism is neither safe nor supported by the state," said RSF in its 2018 report on press freedom. "The number of attacks on media is on the rise, including death threats, and inflammatory rhetoric targeting journalists is increasingly coming from the governing officials."

Read more: Young Serbs moving abroad for work

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ls/msh (AFP, Reuters)

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