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NEWS 21 Oct 16

Italian Journalist Shrugs off Bosnian Probe Into Arms Film

As Bosnian authorities arrest people involved in a controversial documentary on alleged arms trading, the Italian journalist accused of 'staging' the footage has dismissed the accusations.

Eleanor Rose
 Weapons were reported to be readily on sale in Bosnia. Photo: brian.ch/Flickr

Luigi Pelazza, presenter of the Italian TV show "Le Iene" [“The Hyenas”], accused of staging arms deals in Sarajevo for a documentary, told BIRN that the Bosnian authorities had not contacted him - and insisted the film was not faked.

"The investigations are going on without us being involved," Pelazza said in a written statement, adding he did not know anything about the arrests made this week in the probe into his work. 

The Bosnian prosecutor and police announced a probe into Pelazza’s film earlier this month, accusing him of paying people to pretend to sell him guns in the documentary released in early October, called “Where ISIS buys weapons to strike Europe.”

Bosnia’s State Investigation and Protection Agency, SIPA, continued efforts to find all those involved in the first documentary this week, announcing on Wednesday that it had raided a building and arrested two people.

The film embarrassed the Bosnian authorities with its claims that weapons originating from the 1990s wars in the Balkans are readily on sale in Bosnia - and could easily fall into the hands of terrorists. 

“We have published the original recordings on our website to answer the BiH Prosecution, where we can see clearly that we didn't know these two persons and that they really are two dangerous subjects,” the journalist told BIRN.

In a defiant gesture, Pelazza released a second documentary filmed on Bosnian soil this Tuesday, featuring the landmine removal NGO Pro Vita. 

Pelazza said of the new film: “We are not scared [of the Bosnian authorities], since this is the truth.” 

Pelazza's new footage focuses on how explosive material contained in landmines still strewn across Bosnia could be used by bomb-makers and terrorists in Europe. 

On Facebook on Wednesday, Pelazza asked his fans: “Where are all the explosives going to end up? What do you think?” 

The first arms film sparked controversy as soon as it was aired on October 2. The next day, some viewers accused Pelazza via social media of having staged the purchases.

One Facebook commenter said Pelazza was trying to “smear Bosnia” and “impress the gullible”.

Bosnian media initially reported that raids by law enforcement were aimed at tackling the illegal arms trade, but within days it was clear that the authorities were exploring a slightly different angle.

Bosnian Security Minister Dragan Mektic told the local press that the film was sensationalist and staged, although he added that more should be done in general to address the Balkan weapons problem. 

"Le Iene" on October 7 refuted the allegations of staging the footage. “Needless to say, the ‘hyenas’ have always told the truth of the facts,” it said.

Pelazza traveled to Sarajevo to investigate weapons dating back to the Balkan conflicts of the 1990s that were now being used in Europe by “criminals and terrorists, possibly also by ISIS", the show said.

"Our correspondent tried to find out who sells Kalashnikov automatic pistols, sniper rifles and grenades, and documented how easy it is to buy weapons of all kinds and bring them to Europe,” it added. 

Claims that the reporting was false were “libelous, and leave us stunned”, it added.

Local media reported that Bosnian authorities had been in close contact with the Italian embassy in Sarajevo regarding the case, but the embassy declined to comment to BIRN.

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