Kosovo: Memorial plaque to missing reporters unveiled again

The Association of Journalists of Serbia (UNS) has once again unveiled a memorial plaque in Kosovo dedicated to two missing Serb reporters.

Source: Beta, UNS
The banner reads, in Serbian and Albanian, 'Bring our colleagues back to us' (Olivera Radic, UNS)
The banner reads, in Serbian and Albanian, 'Bring our colleagues back to us' (Olivera Radic, UNS)

The plaque - that has been destroyed six times in the past by unknown perpetrators - is located near the Velika Hoca-Zociste road where Radio Pristina journalists Djuro Slavuj and Ranko Perenic went missing on August 21, 1998.

Beta agency on Wednesday carried a statement issued by the UNS, that said the following words in Serbian and Albanian are inscribed on the memorial plaque:
"Our colleagues Djuro Slavuj and Ranko Perenic were kidnapped in this place on August 21, 1998. We are looking for them."

President of the Association of Journalists of Serbia in Kosovo Budimir Nicic said after the unveiling of the plaque on Tuesday that it represented "evidence to what degree institutions are uninterested in resolving these cases, even in finding out who has been destroying the plaque, who has been removing it, and who has been mocking justice all these years."

"The effect of EULEX, whose police officers, prosecutors and judges, as they are announcing, are finishing their mission in a month here in Kosovo, is zero when it comes to murders and kidnappings of journalists. I do not know if they have a clear conscience and if they will have it after leaving here," said Nicic.

Secretary General of the Association of Journalists of Serbia Nino Brajovic called on the European Federation of Journalists to adopt a resolution submitted by journalist associations from Belgrade and Pristina.

"Today, the Association of Journalists of Serbia, the Independent Association of Journalists of Serbia, the Association of Journalists of Kosovo and the Trade Union of Journalists of Serbia, the four associations from Belgrade and Pristina that are members of the European Federation of Journalists, send their request to the European Federation of Journalists to adopt a resolution against impunity for crimes committed against journalists," Brajovic said.

He added that the resolution asks that the Specialist Chambers and the Special War Crimes Prosecutor's Office in Kosovo also deal with cases of kidnappings and murderes of journalists, for the EULEX mission to comply with the recommendation of the UN Commission for Human Rights to renew investigations into all murders and kidnappings of journalists, and for their families to be compensated.

"We also request that a commission to investigate murders and kidnappings of journalists be established in Pristina," he added.

Fund B92 Director Veran Matic, who also heads the commission established by the Serbian government to investigate murders of journalists, said that the political will and mutual cooperation are of utmost importance in uncovering the fate of missing and killed journalists.

(Olivera Radic, UNS)
(Olivera Radic, UNS)

Head of the OSCE mission in Kosovo Jan Braathu was also present, and said it was important not to forget the disappearances of the journalists, to insist that authorities provide the answers, and expressed his hope that the memorial plaque was being installed for the last time.

"We have to return here, even if the plaque remains in place. It's important to persevere and be here until we know the facts. This is not a happy, but it is an important day. Mr. Slavuj and Mr. Perenic were not combatants. They worked under difficult conditions and their job was to report about the situation happening at the time. We are committed to finding out what happened to them," Braathu said.

Pero Slavuj said that since the disappearance of his brother Djuro almost 20 years ago, there had been neither the will nor the desire of authorities, those in power, to find out the truth.

Slavuj and Perenic were on their way to the Serbian Orthodox monastery of Sveti Vraci in Zociste on August 21, 1998, to report about a kidnapping of monks. According to the information obtained by their families, they were last seen in Velika Hoca, from where they by mistake headed toward Orahovac - a town at the time controlled by the KLA ("Kosovo Liberation Army").

The car they traveled in, a blue Zastava 128, has never been found. Their families received no official information about what happened to the two reporters.

From January until September 1998, 12 journalists and translators were attacked in Kosovo while on their work assignments, two were kidnapped, while professor, translator and journalist Shaban Hoti was killed.

KLA member Hajredin Balaj was sentenced before the Hague Tribunal for the murder of Hoti, who was working with a Russian state television crew at the time he was kidnapped and later killed.

The UNS recalled that, except in that case, no other killer, kidnapper, or assailant of journalists in Kosovo has been brought to justice to this day.


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