News 29 Jan 13

Serbian Inquiry to Probe NATO Bombing of TV

A new commission set up to probe killings of journalists in the 1990s wants to re-examine NATO's deadly air strike on Serbia's public broadcaster during the Kosovo war.

Marija Ristic

During its first meeting on Monday, the commission decided to ask the government to expand its mandate to include the 16 people who died when NATO bombed the Serbian public broadcaster, RTS, in 1999.

The commission was originally tasked with assessing the progress of the cases of three prominent journalists, Dada Vujasinovic, Slavko Curuvija and Milan Pantic, who were killed in Serbia during the conflicts in the 1990s.

Veran Matic, head of the Belgrade-based media outlet B92, who is leading the commission, said that he wanted to see “all documents so far gathered on this issue, so that we can determine who made omissions during the investigations and for what reasons”.

The attack on the RTS headquarters was one of the most controversial actions in NATO’s 78-day air war, aimed at forcing Serbia to withdraw its police and military from Kosovo.

Describing RTS as Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic’s “ministry of lies”, NATO said it was a legitimate target because it pumped out propaganda in support of the regime.

Soon after the bombing campaign ended, the families of those killed in the RTS building accused Milosevic of “sacrificing” their lives in order to score political points against NATO, as it was clear the government had known the building was a target.

Milosevic was overthrown in 2000 and two years later, the former director of RTS, Dragoljub Milanovic, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for failing to carry out an order to evacuate the broadcaster.

The relatives of the dead and the NGOs who had campaigned alongside them were not satisfied with the verdict, however.

They argued that Milanovic was effectively made a scapegoat because he could not have acted against the wishes of superiors who were known to exercise direct influence over RTS.

Milosevic and his wife, Mirjana Markovic, are widely believed to have been involved in Curuvija's death as well.

A publisher and journalist he was shot in the head on April 11, 1999, while returning home from a walk.

During the 1999 bombing of Serbia, Curuvija publicly blamed the Milosevic regime for NATO’s military intervention.

The killers and those who directed them have never been identified, despite promises made by every government since Milosevic was ousted.

Vujasinovic, a reporter for Duga magazine, was killed 14 years ago. Her death was initially classified as suicide but last week a new ruling ordered the case to be reopened as a suspected homicide.

Pantic, a local journalist from the central Serbian town of Jagodina, was shot on the doorstep of his home in 2001.

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