Keeping an Eye on Journalists
AIM Mostar, December 14,
of illegal surveillance of journalists and ordinary people have sparked
controversy in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Many citizens groups and politicians are
demanding that information on the matter be made public.
Mostar-based journalist association Apel, representing reporters of all ethnic
backgrounds, was the first to launch such an initiative. The association sent an
open letter to numerous organizations and institutions -- the Croatian Post and
Telecommunications Office in Mostar, the Post Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina,
the Ministry of the Interior of the Muslim-Croat Federation, the U.N. Mission in
Bosnia, and SFOR -- demanding publication of a list of journalists whose
conversations have been taped in recent years.
letter, the association said it was approached by many reporters from across the
Muslim-Croat Federation who complained that information gathered in this way had
been used to intimidate them. Apel, therefore, asked Croatian Post Office
manager Slavko Kukic and Bosniak Post Office manager Edin Batlak to say if
"equipment and employees of the this companies is used for surveillance
operations targeting journalists." Federation Interior Minister Ramo
Maslesa and his deputy, Tomislav Limov, were asked to say "who is
authorized to order surveillance," and to make lists of journalists who
were victims of such campaigns publicly available. The association said it
expected full cooperation from SFOR and the U.N. Mission in Bosnia.
believe you will agree with us that as professional journalists we have the
right to demand that state institutions and officials take action to resolve all
instances in which journalists were exposed to pressure. We consider phone
tapping and surveillance of journalists as being in violation of democratic
principles and that the current government, almost a year after it was formed,
should no longer hesitate to deal with this widespread anomaly," said Apel
in the letter.
response so far has come from the Mostar-based Croatian Postal Office, whose
director, Slavko Kukic, ordered an investigation carried out in the company to
determine whether company resources had been used for for surveillance of
journalists and other people. The interior ministry of the Muslim-Croat
Federation has yet to respond, but the interior ministry of the Herzeg-Bosna
district, responding to a request by journalists from Livno said it had no such
equipment and, therefore, could not organize any surveillance operations.
also said its campaign was not only launched to determine whether police were
involved in surveillance, but, primarily, to establish whether there had been
any illegal activities on the part of the Croatian and Bosniak secret services
in the entity when it comes to illegal surveillance of journalists. In a
statement for AIM, Josip Blazevic, Apel chairman, said that the association has
information that even after general elections held on Nov. 11, 2000,
surveillance of journalists who wrote about the presence of mujahedeen in Bosnia,
and criticized the proclamation of Croatian autonomy continued.
launched the initiative precisely because of information that not only
journalists, but politicians and other public figures as well, were subject to
such treatment. This is why, in accordance with the Free Access to Information
Act, we want all such instances and their victims revealed to the public,"
says Blazevic. He adds Apel will continue to press for its goal, using all
democratic means available, because a year after the change of government, the
public has a right to know about the secret services' activities in areas which
are not in their jurisdiction.
all reporters in Bosnia say strange things have happened with their cell phones,
that they had received numerous messages never meant for them and that often
while talking by phone they would hear an echo. Banjaluka media reported that
most journalists in that entity were under surveillance under the pretext that
they are in touch with foreign secret services. According to them, the list of
journalists subject to such surveillance in RS is quite long.
Croatian politicians in Bosnia also went public with claims that their
conversations were tapped, and New Croatian Initiative president Kresimir Zubak
said he was not subject to surveillance only by the Croatian and Bosniak secret
services, but by a number of others, operating outside the law and totally
independently, under the auspices of certain lobbies and political parties.
Bosnian media said the Bosniak secret service eavesdropped, in addition to
politicians and journalists, senior Roman Catholic Church dignitaries, and among
them Cardinal Vinko Puljic as well.
to available information, the secret services in Bosnia have very sophisticated
surveillance equipment, and the RS secret service, for example, can listen to
10,000 telephone conversations simultaneously, whereas its Bosniak counterpart,
can survey 40,000 conversations at once. There is no reliable information on the
capabilities of the Croatian secret service, but it is rumored that it has
special equipment for tapping regular telephone lines and special vans for
monitoring GSM telephones.
allegedly, are located near GSM operators' relay stations and can access easily
any cell phone they please. According to unofficial sources, the Croatian secret
service got its equipment back in 1996 thanks to Miroslav Tudjman, son of late
Croatian president Franjo Tudjman, who, while his father was in power, was the
first Croatian spy. The service continued to monitor journalists in Bosnia even
after the change of government because it was organized by the Croatian
Democratic Union of Bosnia and Herzegovina and this party is still its direct
Croatian secret service in the Muslim-Croat Federation allegedly used to have
phone tapping equipment in all post offices in the former Herzeg-Bosna. After
the managing team in the Croatian Post Office in Mostar was replaced this summer
by a new team appointed by the new entity government, the equipment, according
to unofficial information, was removed.
issue of illegal surveillance of journalists and other people was also discussed
at the time Bosnian Presidency members Joze Krizanovic and Beriz Belkic
appointed new secret service chiefs. Bosnian media reported at the time that
Ivan Vuksic, the newly-appointed chief of the Croatian secret service, was
Krizanic's private candidate, appointed, allegedly, in exchange for a service
done to Krizanic by Ante Jelavic, president of the Croatian Democratic Union of
Bosnia and Herzegovina. Jelavic, during his stint as a Bosnian Presidency member,
allegedly arranged for Krizanic's brother to get a position in the Bosnian
embassy in Zagreb.
organizations and the media have asked for the publication of information on
past illegal activities, including surveillance of journalists, as the first
test of the new secret services' willingness to operate lawfully. To this day
the services, however, have not disclosed anything about their operations during
the past five years, and not one politician from the ruling Alliance for Change
has demanded that they release such information.
funniest statement in this regard, said Amela Rebac, Apel's vice chairman, came
from Bosnian Presidency member Beriz Belkic. He said an investigation would be
launched as soon as he was presented with compelling proof that journalists had
indeed been subject to surveillance. "Instead of responding by launching an
immediate investigation into the matter, Belkic is asking for evidence from
those who cannot possibly give him any material proof," say Rebac.
very sophisticated equipment is required to detect surveillance equipment used
by the secret services, Belkic's statement is reckless to say the least. But it
also reveals senior officials' unwillingness to deal with illegal activities of
this kind that plague Bosnian society. The reason why Belkic responded in such a
manner could be sought in the fact that he is a member of the Party for Bosnia
and Herzegovina, created after a rift in the Party of Democratic Action. It is a
well-known fact that the Party of Democratic Action created the Bosniak secret
service, and that this organization, much like its Croatian counterpart,
operated in the past as an extension of the party. Analysts believe that the
Party for Bosnia and Herzegovina is trying to prevent the truth on the
operations of the secret services from emerging, because this could cast a
negative light on certain party officials who used to be members of the Party of
Zoran Tihic, AIM
P.O. Box, CH-8031