Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns a brutal assault on leading freelance investigative journalist Zeljko Peratovic two days ago and calls on the Croatian authorities to provide him with protection.
Peratovic, who is RSF’s Croatia correspondent, was attacked at his home in the central city of Karlovac on the evening of 28 May. Three men, who had stopped their car outside his home, insulted him as he arrived and then followed him inside, where they hit him repeatedly before finally leaving.
After a brief hospitalization, Peratovic returned home and is helping the police with their investigation. Three suspects have been arrested but the authorities have not as yet condemned the attack.
“We firmly condemn this violent attack on our Croatia correspondent, Zeljko Peratovic, inside his very home, and we call on the Croatian authorities to give a response that is appropriate to the gravity of what took place,” Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire said.
“We urge them to publicly condemn this attack, which must not be tolerated, and we remind them that they have a duty to guarantee the safety of journalists throughout Croatia.”
Peratovic thinks the attack could be directly linked to a series of articles he has written about a corruption case dating back to 2010, in which Karlovac’s mayor is reportedly implicated.
He also thinks it might be linked to his coverage of the ongoing trial in Munich of Josip Perkovic, a onetime senior official in the Yugoslav security services, who is accused of involvement in the murder of a Yugoslav émigré in West Germany in 1983.
When Peratovic received death threats a few years ago, the authorities responded by opening an investigation and then shelving it. Various judicial proceedings began being brought against him in 2009 including charges of defamation, violating the confidentiality of a judicial investigation and (“revealing information liable to disturb public order.” He was acquitted in 2011.->xxx->http://en.rsf.org/croatia-court-clears-journalist-in-case-01-02-2011,394...)
Overall, media freedom has improved in Croatia in recent years but Reporters Without Borders is disturbed to see threats against journalists go completely unpunished.
Sasa Lekovic, the head of the Association of Croatian Journalists, has often been the target of insults by ultra-nationalists and yesterday he received a letter threatening him with death. After an effigy of journalist Ante Tomic was publicly burned in a town square in February, Tomic filed a complaint but the police took no action and no one was arrested.
Croatia is ranked 58th out of 180 countries in the 2015 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.