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Bombing of Two Journalists in Croatia

Bombing of Two Journalists Damages Croatia's Bid to Join EU

It has been called one of the most serious attacks on press freedom in
years in the entire South East European region, one that could seriously
damage Croatia's bid to join the European Union: two journalists were
killed in a car bombing in Croatia, report the South East Europe Media
Organisation (SEEMO), an affiliate of the International Press Institute
(IPI), and other IFEX members.

Ivo Pukanic, journalist and owner of the NCL Media Group in Zagreb, and
Niko Franjic, marketing director of the leading investigative weekly
newspaper "Nacional", which is published by NCL, were killed on 23 October
when a car bomb exploded under Pukanic's car. The bomb was detonated as
Franjic and Pukanic were getting into the car outside the paper's building,
in the centre of the Croatian capital Zagreb. Two other "Nacional"
employees were injured in the explosion.

SEEMO said it was "alarmed about this heinous crime," and warned that many
Croatian journalists were seriously threatened or attacked over the past
year with impunity. According to the International Federation of
Journalists (IFJ), the two men are the first media workers killed in
Croatia in the post-war period.

Pukanic has been praised as one of Croatia's top investigative journalists
- including for an interview with the Croatian General Ante Gotovina, who
was hiding from The Hague war crimes tribunal at the time. But he has also
been criticised for being too close to powerful politicians and even
criminal figures.

He had repeatedly informed SEEMO about threats he received, starting in
2002. In April this year, he survived a gun attack near his apartment in
central Zagreb. The attacker was never apprehended, says the Committee to
Protect Journalists (CPJ). According to IFJ, for a few months after the
incident police provided Pukanic protection, which was lifted in August at
his request.

Pukanic co-founded "Nacional" in 1995, and four years later was named
journalist of the year in Croatia. "Nacional" has a reputation for
reporting on politically sensitive topics, as well as on corruption and
human rights abuses. Over the years Pukanic built a media company with
several regular publications, and last year also opened the NCL Journalism
School.

Croatia has recently been gripped by a wave of increasingly brazen mafia
attacks that could damage the country's efforts to join the EU, say IFEX
members, which it is hoping to do in 2011. In June, Dusan Miljus, an
investigative journalist who covers crime and corruption for the popular
daily "Jutarnji List", was severely beaten by two men armed with baseball
bats in Zagreb, reports CPJ. The crime remains unsolved.

"It is only by convicting the killers of Franjic and Pukanic, as well as
the attackers of other journalists in Croatia, that your country will be
able to remove this stain from its reputation and take its place in the
European Union," warned the World Association of Newspapers (WAN) in a
letter to Prime Minister Ivo Sanader.

Sanader had sacked his interior and justice ministers, as well as the head
of the national police, earlier this month in response to the wave of
violence. And in an emergency session of Croatia's national security
council called after the bomb attack, Sanader said, "We will fight
organised crime or terrorism - whatever is behind this murder - to its very
end. From now on, no criminal can sleep peacefully... Croatia will be a
safe country."

Last month, 300 journalists joined a protest in Zagreb organised by the
Croatian Journalists' Association (CJA), an IFJ partner, against increasing
threats to journalists and citizens in Croatia. "Many journalists have been
threatened and targeted in the past years but we notice that the situation
is worsening," said CJA. "The association already protested twice in the
past, and we now need strong action against crime."

ENDS

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