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Journalist investigating war crimes receives death threat

(IPI/IFEX) - The following is a press release by the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), an IPI affiliate:

SEEMO Alarmed by Death Threats Against Croatian Journalist

Vienna, 20 February 2008 - The Vienna-based South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists from South East Europe and an affiliate of the International Press Institute (IPI), is alarmed by the recent death threat against Croatian journalist Drago Hedl.

According to information before SEEMO, on 12 February 2008, Drago Hedl, editor of the Croatian weekly Feral Tribune, received a death threat by way of a letter sent to his home address. Hedl has actively investigated war crimes committed against civilians in the eastern city of Osijek in 1991. Several other individuals involved in the trial for war crimes over the civilian deaths received the same letter, which contained warnings and a drawing of a skull.

SEEMO is deeply concerned about this occurrence, especially because Hedl's life has been threatened repeatedly in the past. Oliver Vujovic, SEEMO Secretary General, said that "investigative journalists are an important link for democratic societies and should thus receive full support and protection from the state. We urge the authorities to take these threats seriously and to do everything in their power to resolve the situation and protect Hedl."

SEEMO would also like to emphasize that these intimidations not only threaten the lives of individual journalists, but also impinge on the public's right to be informed and the principle of freedom of expression more generally. No democratic society can accept threats that impose self-censorship on journalists fearing for their lives. SEEMO will continue to monitor the situation, and urges the Croatian authorities to expeditiously investigate this case and ensure Hedl's protection.

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