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
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
For further information contact IFJ on +32 2 235 2207
The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists
in 123 countries worldwide