Reporters Without Borders condemns the latest proceedings that Croatian interior minister Tomislav Karamarko has initiated against journalist Zeljko Peratovic, the target of repeated legal actions by the minister during past two years accusing him variously of defamation, violating the confidentiality of a judicial investigation and divulging information liable to disturb public order (see the release of 15 January 2009).
Karamarko began this judicial harassment after Peratovic accused him of obstructing the investigation into the death of Milan Levar, a witness under the protection of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), who was killed by a car bomb in Gospic in August 2000.
In the latest move, the Zagreb prosecutor’s office opened criminal proceedings against Peratovic on 12 November for allegedly violating the confidentiality of a previous investigation initiated against him by Karamarko. Peratovic’s crime, according to the prosecutor’s office, was to have posted the depositions of prosecution witnesses on his blog on 1 August 2009.
Karamarko brought a complaint against him the following month claiming that the publication of this information was liable to endanger the witnesses. Peratovic was questioned by the police about the complaint in November 2009 and by the investigative judge in March of this year. No date has so far been set for a trial. The depositions were also posted on other websites without complaints being brought against them by the minister, indicating that the safety of the witnesses was just a pretext.
The interior minister’s judicial harassment is clearly designed to prevent Peratovic from working freely by forcing him to devote all his attention to the prosecutions, and to prevent him from defending himself publicly by enforcing respect for the principle of judicial confidentiality.
As he already tried to do last year, Karamarko probably hopes to be able to convince the court to ban Peratovic from publishing information for an indefinite period, thereby preventing him from working as a journalist, whether writing for his blog or for other media.
Reporters Without Borders is outraged by the fact that the social services have also just opened an investigation aimed as demonstrating that Peratovic does not take proper care of his daughter. A similar investigation by the social services last year ended up finding no grounds for accusations of paedophilia that had been made anonymously against him.
Social workers spent more than a year trying in vain to locate the neighbours who had anonymously expressed “concern” about Peratovic. The paedophilia investigation was eventually dropped but now, at the request of the prosecutor’s office, the social services are to going to verify whether he looks after his daughter’s physical and moral well-being.
It is curious that the social services have been asked to conduct this new investigation at the same time that the latest criminal proceedings were announced. Reporters Without Borders urges the social services to proceed in an impartial, independent and rational manner and to conclude the investigation if the allegations are not supported by any solid evidence.