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WAN alarmed at media harassment following attack on journalist, lawsuits against newspaper, threats against reporter and unresolved case of murdered editor

(WAN/IFEX) - The following is a WAN letter to President Filip Vujanovic:

His Excellency President Filip Vujanovic
Office of the President

Montenegro, 24 September 2007

Your Excellency,

We are writing on behalf of the World Association of Newspapers and the World Editors Forum, which represent 18,000 publications in 102 countries, to express our serious concern at an attack on journalist Zeljko Ivanovic and the deteriorating situation of press freedom in Montenegro.

According to reports, Mr Ivanovic, founder and director of leading independent daily Vijesti, was attacked early on the morning of 2 September in Podgorica and beaten with sticks or pipes while returning from the celebration of the 10th anniversary of his newspaper. Although Mr Ivanovic was not seriously injured in the attack, we are concerned that it may have been a warning that Vijesti should end its critical reporting and that, if it does not, more serious violence would follow. Two legal cases have also recently been brought against Vijesti, which Mr Ivanovic also believes are attempts to silence the newspaper.

Although an investigation has been conducted into the attack on Mr Ivanovic, we are seriously concerned at reports suggesting that it might not be impartial and that those ultimately responsible might not be brought to justice.

In a separate incident on 19 September, Petar Komnenic, a reporter for the independent weekly Monitor, received a threatening telephone call, warning him not to continue his critical journalism.

We also remain deeply concerned by the fact that the 2004 assassination of Dusko Jovanovic, director of the daily Dan, has still not been resolved.

We respectfully remind you that it is the duty of the state to provide an environment in which journalists are able to carry out their professional duties without fear of intimidation. Such incidents foster a climate of fear that inhibits journalistic investigation and can promote self-censorship.

We respectfully call on you to ensure that the attack on Mr Ivanovic and the threats made against Mr Komnenic are thoroughly and impartially investigated and that those responsible are swiftly brought to justice. We urge you to do everything in your power to end the harassment of journalists so that they are able to exercise their duties without fear of attack and intimidation.

We look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.

Yours sincerely,

Gavin O'Reilly
World Association of Newspapers

George Brock
World Editors Forum

WAN is the global organization for the newspaper industry, with formal representative status at the United Nations, UNESCO and the Council of Europe. The organization groups 18,000 newspapers in 102 countries, 11 news agencies and nine regional and world-wide press groups. WAN is non-governmental and non-profit.

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