Editor's Murder Raises Tensions in Montenegro

Opposition and government trade accusations over who was really behind a killing that that has rocked Montenegro.

Editor's Murder Raises Tensions in Montenegro

Opposition and government trade accusations over who was really behind a killing that that has rocked Montenegro.

The arrest of two suspects for the murder of a prominent journalist has failed to quell a war of words between Milo Djukanovic’s government and the opposition over the shooting.

The murder of Dusko Jovanovic on May 27 has fuelled an atmosphere of fear and insecurity in the republic, widening the chasm between opposition parties and the government.

Damir Mandic, a well known martial arts sportsman, and his brother Almir were arrested last night in connection with the investigation.

Jovanovic, 40, editor of the Podgorica daily Dan and a critic of the pro-independence coalition, was shot dead around midnight in front of his office.

After Jovanic got into his car, a vehicle with tinted windows pulled up close by and a gunman opened fire from it. The car sped off in an unknown direction.

The killing is an embarrassment for Prime Minister Djukanovic, as the opposition has claimed the murder was carried out on the orders of figures close to – or even in – his government. At an opposition march held to honour Jovanovic’s memory on May 29, protesters shouted “Milo – murderer” as they passed government buildings in Podgorica.

The ruling coalition insists says the murder was carried out precisely to destabilise the administration.

Determined to dispel any suspicion that the government had a hand in the killing, Interior Minister Dragan Djurovic announced he would resign if the crime was not solved, and offered a million-euro reward for information about who ordered or carried out the murder.

Djukanovic himself said the killing was “an attack on peace and stability of Montenegro. This is why it is important to analyse who might have had the motive to send such a message by perpetrating this criminal act.”

The interior minister has asked French, British, German and American police to send experts to crack the case. German experts have already arrived.

Two days after the shooting, the police found a VW Golf car, from which the shots were probably fired, abandoned a few hundred metres from the crime scene.

They recovered two automatic rifles, cartridge cases and licence plates from Vrsac, a town in north-eastern Serbia.

But Jovanovic’s bodyguard, Milorad Mirovic, who witnessed the killing, said the car did not match the one he saw. He told Dan that the car in the shooting looked more like a BMW.

As well as editing Dan, Jovanovic was co-owner of Yu Media Mont, a private firm comprising Dan, a radio station and a magazine Revija D.

He was also an active politician, sitting in Montenegro’s parliament for the opposition Socialist People's Party, SNP, which – in contrast to the government - supports the state union with Serbia.

Under his stewardship in 2001, Dan expanded into a paper with a large circulation, thanks partly to the republication of widely-read articles on tobacco smuggling from the Zagreb newspaper Nacional.

These reports, accusing the government of involvement in international cigarette smuggling, created shock waves, as did articles accusing Djukanovic of involvement in sex trafficking. Djukanovic filed libel charges against Dan over its claims.

Jovanovic's newspaper had earlier defended the policies of Serbia’s president Slobodan Milosevic, now on trial for genocide in The Hague.

After the paper revealed the identity of a protected witness in the Milosevic trial, the tribunal brought charges against Jovanovic. They were dropped following a public apology two months ago.

Jovanovic had been threatened and attacked before his death. On October 25, 2000, he was assaulted by unknown men in front of his apartment.

A former associate told IWPR that Jovanovic had made many enemies in the mafia, as well in as the government, because of his reports on smuggling.

Dan lawyer Lidija Bozovic complained that although Jovanovic received threats on several occasions, the police did nothing to protect him.

After the assassination, Dan claimed Jovanovic had received an anonymous tip-off two years ago from a secret police source, warning that he was about to be attacked. No attack took place at that time in 2002.

Whatever their views about his articles, journalists’ associations have united in condemning the crime, some saying they see it as a coded warning not to criticise the government.

Esad Kocan, editor of the weekly Monitor, said, “Journalists must stand up for their rights and continue investigating. We must not be broken by fear or permit anyone to force us to stay clear of certain issues.”

Acknowledging that his approaches to journalism diverged significantly from Jovanovic’s, Kocan said, “No differences matter any more in the face of this crime”.

Senko Cabarkapa, vice-president of Montenegro’s Journalists Association, told IWPR that the murder was “a black hole for Montenegrin journalism and democracy in general”.

Montenegro Press, an umbrella body supporting the private print media, said journalists needed to ask whether the shots were aimed just at Jovanovic, or at all investigative reporters.

“Jovanovic's assassination is a warning to all freedom-loving people,” the organisation said. “It is an attempt to blackmail dissenters… a threat to the survival of free thought and an attack on a free press.”

Nebojsa Medojevic, director of the NGO, Group for Changes, said the killing showed Montenegro risked becoming a “banana republic”.

“Well-intentioned people should see this as a signal that this is not a game any more,” he said. “We are entering a zone of terror and repression, which can only end in chaos.”

Goran Danilovic, vice-president of the SNS, said the aim of those who shot Jovanovic was to intimidate people so that they would channel their discontent in other directions.

But some political analysts say the opposition may have a problem if it tries to make capital out of the tragedy.

“I do not believe this tragedy will lead to larger opposition protests,” Rade Bojkovic told IWPR. “Put simply, both sides are limited in their actions by their lack of credibility.”

Nedjelko Rudovic is a journalist with the Vijesti newspaper in Podgorica.

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