Croatia: War crimes reporter arrested, then released

Reporters Without Borders says a Croatian journalist was arrested last week after police raided his home.

Source: B92
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The arrest of Željko Peratović is strongly condemned by the organization, which adds that police also seized his computers.

“Journalists’ homes should enjoy the protection necessary for the confidentiality of their sources, without which they cannot work properly,” the press freedom organization said.

“If the authorities want to identify the sources of leaks, they should investigate the members of the national security services instead of harassing journalists whose job is to communicate all information of public interest.”

Police arrived at Peratović’s home at 7 a.m. last Wednesday and spent seven hours searching it. They then invited him to accompany them for an informal interview which ended at 8 p.m. with his being taken into custody on a charge of revealing a state secret.

But he was released later, and it now looks likely no charges will be brought against him.

Reporters Without Borders has been told his arrest was prompted by posts on his blog (peratovic.net and peratovic.blog.hr/) relating to war crimes committed by Croatian forces against ethnic Serbs in the village of Gospić, in the 1990s.

In one of his posts, Peratović wrote about the account of a Gospić resident who witnessed the atrocities that is to be broadcast in a public television program this evening.

He said the program contained authentic elements and accused former defense minister Gojko Šušak, now deceased, and one of the leaders of the ruling Croatian Democratic Union Party (HDZ), Darko Milinović, of being responsible for the atrocities.

Milinović heads the HDZ’s candidate list for the parliamentary elections scheduled for November 25.

Peratović is known for his reporting on the death of Milan Levar, an International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia protected witness whose identity was revealed by the police.

Levar was killed by a car bomb on August 28, 2000, in Gospić. Peratović was questioned as a witness during the investigation into Levar’s murder as he was one of the last people to see him alive.

Peratović has worked for several daily newspapers, the latest of which was Vjesnik. His investigative reporting on war crimes has got him into a lot of trouble. He lost his job, he has been physically attacked and he is regarded as a traitor by many of his compatriots, who refuse to accept that Croats could have committed war crimes.

In 2003, he received a press freedom prize from the Austrian section of Reporters Without Borders. He contacted Reporters Without Borders in 2005 to say he was being closely watched.

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