Ten Years On, IFJ Says NATO "Must Apologise" over Belgrade Media Killings

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)

today said that, ten years after NATO forces defied the protests of journalists

and human rights groups and bombed a television centre in Belgrade killing 16 media staff, the damage

from that unprecedented strike is still being felt.

"When NATO forces decided to strike at the television

of station RTS in Belgrade

because they found its propaganda offensive they set a terrible precedent,"

said Jim Boumelha, IFJ President. "That attack opened the door to a decade of

attacks on media in conflict zones and has made journalism more dangerous than

ever."

Boumelha says that NATO should admit its mistake on April 23rd 1999 when it

targeted the Serbian state

broadcaster in its struggle with the regime of Slobodan Milosevic. "The lives

lost are gone forever, but an apology from NATO to the families and colleagues

of those who died is long overdue," he said.

Only days before the attack, the IFJ had received an

assurance from NATO officials that it would not attack media during the

conflict over the future of Kosovo. Such an attack is in contravention of

international law, warned the IFJ and other press freedom advocates, even if

the media concerned are guilty of propaganda. Attacks are only permitted on

media when they are actively engaged in the strategic process of war. 

But the NATO strike went ahead. Those who died were

forced to stay at their posts despite warnings of the attack, raising claims

that they had been deliberately placed in danger by the RTS bosses. Following

the attack , other assaults on media installations - particularly by the Israeli

military which attacked media in Lebanon in 2006 and in the Gaza

Strip earlier this year - have been justified by NATO's action.

The IFJ pledged at this anniversary to support

journalists in Serbia in their

efforts to seek justice for their colleagues who died during the attack and to

overcome the legacy of divisive politics which for so long has undermined the

profession.

For further information contact IFJ on +32 2 235 2207

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists

in 123 countries worldwide