Serbian journalists and law enforcement officials are determined to solve murder cases.
By Ivana Jovanovic and Igor Jovanovic for Southeast European Times in Belgrade -- 19/02/13
A commission will investigate the murders of three Serbian journalists. [Nada Bozic/SETimes]
In a region where violence against members of the news media is all too common, Serbia is the first to create a government commission to investigate the murders of journalists.
Dada Vujasinovic, Slavko Curuvija and Milan Pantic reported on crime and corruption during the Milosevic regime. All three were killed between 1994 and 2001.
Vujasinovic reported about children suffering in occupied Sarajevo and about crime activities during the war. She was found in her flat in April 1994. Pantic, who was murdered in 2001, wrote about corporate corruption for the daily Vecernje Novosti. Curuvija owned Dnevni Telegraf, Serbia's first private daily newspaper after World War II and 50 years of communist-controlled media.
Serbia's commission was initiated by Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, who was information minister in 1999 when Curuvija was killed.
"If the state organs were not capable to resolve these journalists' murders in Serbia, I hope that this commission will do it since this is an important democratic improvement," Oliver Vujovic, president of the Southeast Europe Media Organisation, told SETimes.
While democracy has emerged across the region, corruption remains a significant obstacle. A free and independent press plays an essential role in the democratic process by serving as a government watchdog.
Several states have seen examples of violence against journalists.
Dusko Jovanovic, director of Montenegrin daily Dan, was shot and killed in February 2004 on a Podgorica street. A trial is ongoing, but Jovanovic's family, colleagues and some NGOs are unsatisfied with the progress. A motive in the killing is unknown.
Croatia's Supreme Court issued a final judgment for four of the six accused in the murders of Ivo Pukanic and Niko Franjic in October 2008. Each of the four was sentenced to jail terms ranging from 23 to 40 years. Pukanic was the founder and editor of the Croatian political weekly Nacional and Niko was its marketing manager.
In Turkey, 23 journalists were killed between 1992 and 2013, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Vucic said the group's work will have a vital impact on the rule of law. "No one has the right to conduct liquidation in Serbia. The criminals must foot the bill," Vucic said in statement.
B92 Editor-in-Chief Veran Matić has been appointed to head the commission. For three years, Matić has been trying to launch an investigation into the murders through the network's humanitarian arm, the B92 Fund.
"Now I see, in some sectors and persons, political will, awareness about the importance of investigation why those who committed and ordered these murders have not been found," Matić told SETimes.
"The commission is linked with creating pre-conditions for better and more serious guarantees for media freedom, not only through the law … especially through specific disclosure of those who were brutally breaking journalists' rights," Matić said.
Serbian Police Director Milorad Veljovic, who will serve on the commission, said the participation of journalists is critical.
"It is important that the media are included so that no one could think that the police are hiding something or not doing their job promptly," Veljovic told SETimes.
Correspondent Menekse Tokyay in Istanbul contributed to this story.