- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 30, 2004

PODGORICA, Serbia and Montenegro - Dusko Jovanovic, the editor in chief of Montenegro’s main opposition daily shot dead by an unknown gunman early Friday, was buried yesterday amid concern over freedom of the press in the Balkan republic.

The Interior Ministry offered a reward of 1 million euros [$1.2 million] for “every correct piece of information on the identity of a direct executor or a person who ordered the murder.”

Interior Minister Dragan Djurovic called on his counterparts in France, Britain, Germany and the United States to send criminal specialists to Montenegro to help the republic’s police solve the crime.

The assassin opened fire on Mr. Jovanovic outside the offices of the Dan newspaper just after midnight, then fled, said Mili Prelevic, a Dan editor who witnessed the attack.

“Around 4 a.m., doctors in the hospital told me and other colleagues that Jovanovic had died,” Mr. Prelevic said. Mr. Jovanovic’s funeral and burial were yesterday.

Journalists, politicians and citizens gathered at the newspaper offices in the Montenegrin capital, Podgorica, during the day Friday, lighting candles and placing flowers at the site of the shooting.

Opposition parties held a weekend protest over the killing.

Montenegrin President Filip Vujanovic and Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic condemned the killing, and called on the Interior Ministry to conduct a thorough probe to find the perpetrators of the attack.

“This was an attack on the peace and stability of Montenegro, and a threat to the security of its citizens,” said Mr. Djukanovic.

Press organizations and human-rights groups condemned the killing of Mr. Jovanovic, 40, a former opposition lawmaker who was no stranger to controversy in his career at the newspaper.

“There can be no free society without a free media,” the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) mission in Serbia and Montenegro said in a statement. “And there is no free media if journalists have to work in an atmosphere of violence and fear,” it added.

Reporters Without Borders called on Mr. Djurovic to “ensure that investigators do not rule out the possibility that the killing was linked to Jovanovic’s work as an editor.”

Media in Montenegro and in Serbia, the much-larger republic to which it is linked in a loose federation, urged authorities in Podgorica to find the culprits who were trying to use violence to stifle free speech.

Mr. Jovanovic was killed by “those who have been trying to silence public words by threats and violence,” the Montenegrin Association of Journalists said in a statement.

The daily Dan has been involved in several judicial cases, and Mr. Jovanovic often criticized the ruling coalition led by Mr. Djukanovic, who had tried to sue him and the newspaper for slander.

The Dan was, for example, accused of libel in connection with a case concerning cigarette-trafficking in the Balkans. It is said to support the opposition and the People’s Socialist Party, which backed former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.

The daily said in a statement that Mr. Jovanovic had received many death threats for his paper’s reporting of various affairs reputedly involving some top Montenegrin officials.

Lidija Bozovic, the newspaper’s lawyer, said Mr. Jovanovic “would not have been dead if the police had done their job” to protect the journalist.

Slavoljub Scekic, editor in chief of the privately owned Montenegrin daily Vijesti, expressed “shock that such a monstrous crime could be committed in Montenegro.”

“There have been unsolved and premeditated murders before, but for the first time a journalist and editor in chief of a newspaper was killed,” he told reporters.

Mr. Jovanovic was once charged with contempt of court by the U.N. War Crimes Tribunal at The Hague after his paper revealed the identity of a witness whose identity was being protected. The U.N. charges were withdrawn after Mr. Jovanovic apologized to the court.

Montenegro, a tiny Adriatic republic once part of the former Yugoslavia, has seen its journalists saddled with draconian media laws, including one imposed in 2002 that limited the sources journalists could use for stories, the length of their articles, and the number of pieces they could publish about each political party.

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