Reporters Without Borders today voiced its shock at the death in a car bomb explosion yesterday of Ivo Pukanic, owner and former editor of the weekly Nacional, and marketing executive Niko Franjic.
The two were walking towards the car parked near the offices of the NCL Media Group when it exploded. Two other people were injured in the blast, for which there has so far been no claim of responsibility. Police in Zagreb opened an investigation but made no public statement.
The car bombing comes at a time of heightened violence in Croatia, including several gang-linked murders that have led to the sacking of the interior and justice ministers.
“We are shocked by the death of the two management staff on Nacional. We urge the Croatian authorities to rigorously pursue their investigation to establish the motive for these murders and to arrest the perpetrators and those who instigated them,” the worldwide press freedom organisation said.
“The reach of organised crime in the Balkans is becoming ever more disturbing. They have no hesitation in killing journalists who take too close an interest in their activities. Even if the fight against corruption is above all a matter for the authorities, the press remains one of the main conduits for this fight.”
“Whether in Croatia, or even within the European Union (Bulgaria, Italy), journalists are being targeted because of their work. Investigations into these attacks are very rarely successful, which gives the gangsters the feeling of complete power and impunity”, it added.
Pukanic was the target of a failed murder attempt in April 2008, despite being under police protection, which was suspended in August 2008. In 2003, he published an interview with former Croatian general, Ante Gotovina, sought by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia for war crimes committed during the 1991 Serbo-Croat conflict.
Dusan Miljus, of the daily Jutarnji List, was attacked and beaten with iron bars by a gang in July this year. The investigation into the attack has not yet produced any results.
Croatia is ranked 45th out of 173 countries in Reporters Without Borders’ latest world press freedom index published on 22 October 2008.