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Croatian Journalists Face Further Contempt Charges

More indictments have been issued against Croatian journalists for revealing the names of protected witnesses.
By Janet Anderson

Six people in Croatia - a publisher, four editors and the former head of intelligence - have now been charged with contempt of court after revealing the identity of protected witnesses in two separate incidents in 2000 and 2004.


The tribunal recently confirmed two indictments against Josip Jovic and Marijan Krizic, former chief editors of the daily Slobodna Dalmacija and the Zagreb weekly Hrvatsko Slovo respectively.


They are alleged to have published the identity, and parts of the testimony, of a protected witness who had testified at the trial of Tihomir Blaskic – the wartime commander of ethnic Croat forces in Bosnia.


The new charges follow two indictments filed in April this year.


The first concerns the former head of the Croatian intelligence service, Markica Rebic, who allegedly provided Ivica Marijacic, the editor of the Zagreb weekly Hrvatski List, with the identity of a protected witness who testified in the Blaskic trial in December 1997.


Rebic is said to have given Marijacic copies of the statement the witness made to prosecutors, as well as a transcript of testimony the witness gave in a court session that was closed to the public.


The second indictment from April concerns Stjepan Seselj, publisher of the Zagreb weekly Hrvatsko Slovo, and Domagoj Margetic, ex-editor of the same publication.


It alleges that in November 2004, Hrvatsko Slovo printed the identity and parts of the testimony of a witness who also appeared under protective measures in the Blaskic trial in March 1998.


Having been ordered to cease publishing such material, Margetic apparently wrote to the tribunal announcing that he didn't recognise the court's authority and would not obey the order. He allegedly then went on to publish further excerpts of the witness' testimony in a December edition of his new publication, Novo Hrvatsko Slovo.


Rebic, Marijacic, Seselj and Margetic have all pleaded not guilty to the charges set out against them.


In the latest indictments, it is alleged that the identity and the testimony of the March 1998 witness were also published earlier by Slobodna Dalmacija in November and December 2000.


This was in violation of tribunal order on December 1 of the same year ordering protection for the witness.


The indictment alleges that the court ordered Slobodna Dalmacija to cease publication, but the newspaper published the order two days later under a headline revealing the name of the protected witness and ran a comment accusing the tribunal of “an aggression against the rule of law”.


The other indictment against Krizic, of Hrvatsko Slovo, refers to an incident in November and December 2004 already covered by one of the April indictments when the weekly paper allegedly disclosed the identity of the protected witness.


Jovic and Krizic are scheduled to make their first appearance in The Hague on September 26.


Contempt of the tribunal is punishable with up to seven years in prison and a fine of up to 100,000 euro.


Blaskic was released from tribunal custody last summer after the appeals chamber overturned some of his most serious convictions.


He was originally given a 45-year prison sentence in March 2000 for ordering the persecution of Muslim civilians in his capacity as a wartime commander of ethnic Croat forces in Bosnia.


Janet Anderson is IWPR project manager in The Hague.