Cablegate: Croatian Journalist Detained, Released
PP RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDBU RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA
RUEHLN RUEHLZ RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHVB #0970 2981404
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 251404Z OCT 07
FM AMEMBASSY ZAGREB
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8264
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
UNCLAS ZAGREB 000970
FOR EUR/SCE, EUR/PPD, AND DRL
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM HR
SUBJECT: CROATIAN JOURNALIST DETAINED, RELEASED
1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Zagreb police arrested freelance journalist,
Zeljko Peratovic, on October 18, and released him the following the
day, charging him with posting classified documents to his website.
Human rights and media groups and the opposition Social Democratic
Party (SDP) quickly protested the arrest. Prime Minister Sanader
expressed support for media freedom in the days following.
President Mesic characterized the search of Peratovic's apartment as
a mistake and said that the case should have been handled
differently. END SUMMARY
2. (U) Zagreb police arrested free-lance journalist Zeljko Peratovic
October 18 on charges of revealing state and military secrets on his
website, releasing him on October 19. The police seized three
computers, a mobile phone, and documents from his apartment. While
Peratovic is the subject of a criminal investigation, prosecutors
have not decided whether he will be brought to trial. Police are
seeking to identify the government officials who allegedly leaked
3. (U) According to Peratovic, the documents in question were
already in the public domain and had been on his website for months.
One of the documents allegedly had been submitted to the Parliament
to substantiate his claim that Croatian intelligence had trailed him
as a result of his reporting on the ICTY case against retired
General Gotovina. Peratovic claims that newspapers had published
the other two documents, which included references to the British
Secret Service and meetings between British intelligence and the
former Croatian Police Chief, Ranko Ostojic.
4. (U) Croatian Prime Minister Sanader commented on the case on
October 18, announcing that he would request a report from the
Minister of Internal Affairs. Sanader expressed full support for
media freedoms, declaring that he was always on the side of
journalists. On October 22, President Mesic called the police
search of Peratovic's apartment a mistake, said that the case should
have been handled differently. He said that the police had taken the
path of least resistance in investigating the person who had
received the classified documents rather than those responsible for
the information, and said this was this totally wrong.
5. (U) The Zagreb police department announced on October 20 that the
head of the criminal investigation department, Darko Dundovic, would
assume a new post as the senior professor at the Police Academy.
While police deny any linkage between Dundovic's stepping down and
the arrest, PM Sanader suggested that Dundovic had been reassigned
as a result of the incident.
6. (U) The Croatian Journalists Association, the Croatian Helsinki
Committee on Human Rights Media Council, Reporters without
Frontiers, the Social Democratic Party (SDP), the Center for
Development of Democracy, and journalists spoke out against the
arrest. The Croatian Journalists Association condemned the arrest,
calling it a drastic example of endangering journalistic freedom and
argued that the government employees leaking the documents should be
investigated, not the journalist who informed the public. The
opposition Social Democratic Party called Peratovic's detention an
attempt to intimidate the press.
7. (SBU) Comment: While Peratovic's arrest has caused controversy
in Croatia, it appears to be an isolated case and not indicative of
a pattern to suppress the media. The police and the prosecutor's
office have sought to blame each other for the incident. With
parliamentary elections just one month away, the GOC would not
likely seek to anger the media. At the same time, Peratovic is
known for his investigative reporting on war crimes and the
intelligence services and certainly has enemies.