IFJ Calls on President Kostunica to Open Public Investigation Over RTS Bombing

The International Federation of Journalists today made a new call to Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica, to hold a "public and independent inquiry" into the killing of 16 media workers at Serbian state television that was a NATO target during its 1999 bombing campaign.

On 23 January, UN war crimes prosecutor Carla del Ponte said that NATO had told her that Slobodan Milosevic's authorities knew Serbian state television was a target during its 1999 bombing campaign.

Del Ponte, on a visit to Belgrade, made the statement to a lawyer for families of the victims of the bombing who are already pursuing legal action against television management on the suspicion they knew the building was a target but kept it open. "If she is right, there is a scandal here that must be uncovered," said the IFJ

"The question must be asked whether the lives of TV workers were deliberately sacrificed to make a propaganda point for the Milosevic regime", said Aidan White, General Secretary of the IFJ.

NATO, which mounted the 78-day air war against Yugoslavia over repression of Kosovo Albanians, said it hit the building because its broadcasts were part of Milosevic's war machine.

The families consider both the television management and NATO responsible for the deaths, and some of them have begun suing the military alliance at the European Court of Human Rights.

In 1999 the IFJ strongly criticized NATO's attack on RTS saying it was illegal and would lead to further targeting of Media. "The attack itself was bad enough, but now it seems that another horrifying crime was committed. The question must be answered through a public and independent inquiry into the events surrounding the killings", said the IFJ.

The IFJ says that the 16 media workers who died were the only civilian victims killed in a public building during the NATO bombing campaign. "This scandal will not be allowed to die until the full facts are known and those responsible are held to account", said the IFJ.