Serbia: MFRR welcomes renewed convictions for murder of Slavko Ćuruvija

Press-ECPMF

03 December 2021

No Comments

03 December 2021

The undersigned partners of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) today welcome the confirmed guilty verdicts handed down to four former officials in the Serbian state security services for the murder in 1999 of leading journalist and editor-in-chief Slavko Ćuruvija.

 

The decision by the Higher Court in Belgrade to reaffirm the convictions in the retrial is an important victory for the family and all those involved in the long fight for justice for his assassination and represents another important milestone in the fight against engrained impunity for the killing of journalists in Serbia, where journalists continue to face multiple threats, attacks and pressure.

 

Ćuruvija, an investigative reporter, owner of the Dnevni Telegraf newspaper and Evropljanin magazine, and a vocal opponent of authoritarian president Slobodan Milošević, was shot 14 times with an automatic pistol outside his house in Belgrade in April 1999. He was considered an enemy of the state for advocating in his journalism for the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia during the Kosovo War.

 

After a seven-year trial, four former spies working for the State Security Department were convicted for the killing and each sentenced to between 20 and 30 years in prison, in a landmark ruling in April 2019. In July last year, the Special Department for Organized Crime of the Court of Appeals overturned the first-instance verdict and ordered a retrial over the naming of an unidentified individual as the gunman, prolonging a 22-year fight for justice.

 

The retrial, which began in October 2020, suffered from multiple disruptions during the pandemic. However, the Trial Chamber of the Special Court finally reached its decision on 2 December 2021 and again sentenced those responsible to a total of 100 years behind bars. Former spy chiefs Radomir Marković and Milan Radonjić were sentenced to 30 years. Accomplice Ratko Romić was given 20 and Miroslav Kurak, who remains on the run, received 20 years. The verdict ruled that the Ćurvija was killed by an unidentified person.

 

While these renewed convictions are welcome, the fight for justice is not yet over. In the event of a further legal challenge, we hope the Court of Appeal will confirm final guilty verdicts for all four defendants. Full justice in this case will never be achieved, as the top state officials who may have ultimately ordered the killing are long gone. These renewed convictions nonetheless offer another damning indictment of the Milošević regime, which in its verdict the court found to have orchestrated the politically motivated killing through its security apparatus.

 

The fight against impunity for killings and attacks on journalists is an integral element of the efforts to improve media freedom in Serbia. As the MFRR stressed in our report following a recent mission to Serbia, impunity for the gravest crimes continues to cast a long shadow over the country’s climate for safety of the press. Serbia remains one of the most dangerous countries in Europe to be a journalist. In the last few weeks, our organisations have observed with concern several attacks and threats against journalists in Serbia, including a death threat against investigative outlet KRIK and the beating of photojournalist Andrija Vukelic by supporters of the ruling Serbian Progressive Party.

 

This verdict in the case of Slavko Ćuruvija should therefore both act as a catalyst for authorities to redouble efforts to end impunity for the other unsolved killings of journalists since the break-up of former Yugoslavia – including Milan Pantić and Dada Vujasinovic – but also to work to establish an environment in which no other journalists face attacks because of their work.

 

Our organisations salute the work of the special prosecutor, the Commission for the Investigation of Murders of Journalists in Serbia and the Slavko Ćuruvija Foundation, who have fought for so long to achieve justice in this case. In the event of an appeal, representatives from our organisations will seek to travel to Serbia to observe the trial in person.

Signed by:

European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)

European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)

International Press Institute  (IPI)

OBC Transeuropa (OBCT)

This statement is part of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), an Europe-wide mechanism, which tracks, monitors and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States and Candidate Countries. This project provides legal and practical support, public advocacy and information to protect journalists and media workers. The MFRR is organised by an consortium led by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) with ARTICLE 19, the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), Free Press Unlimited (FPU), the Institute for Applied Informatics at the University of Leipzig (InfAI), International Press Institute (IPI) and CCI/Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso Transeuropa (OBCT). The project is co-funded by the European Commission. www.mfrr.eu

Read news by categories:

Related news

Feature

Croatia: Faktograf journalist Melita Vrsaljko physically assaulted twice in a week

The undersigned organisations express deep concerns about the physical attacks targeting Melita Vrsaljko, a journalist working for the Croatian fact-checking website Faktograf.hr.

READ MORE
Statement

Joint letter to Ursula von der Leyen calling for a strong press freedom mandate

ECPMF has joined 25 organisations to call on the European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen to ensure that media freedom, the protection of journalists, and EU citizens’ access to public interest journalism remain high political priorities.

READ MORE
Support

“When all our reporting, all our drops, come together, they form an ocean” – Environmental and urban journalism in Turkey

Hazal Ocak is an investigative journalist from Turkey reporting on environmental and urban topics. By writing about environmental injustices, she attempts to amplify the “voice of many creatures such as trees and squirrels” on this planet.

READ MORE
Statement

France: Media freedom coalition condemns Vivendi’s disinformation campaign against Reporters Without Borders

The Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) partners strongly condemn the cyber disinformation campaign against the press freedom organisation Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

READ MORE
Press release

Georgia: A crisis point for press freedom

Today, ECPMF publishes a report detailing the findings of its fact-finding mission to Tbilisi, Georgia, which paint a picture of independent media in the midst of an existential crisis.

READ MORE
Statement

Turkey: Freedom of the press and expression groups condemn broadcast regulator’s silencing of Açık Radyo

The undersigned freedom of the press and expression organizations condemn the decision by Turkey’s broadcast regulator to revoke the license of independent radio station Açık Radyo.

READ MORE