For Immediate Release
October 16, 1996
Phone: (212)465-1004 x-101
(212) 465-1004 X-110
Journalists' Group Denounces Recent Attack on U.S Journalist in Bosnian Serb Republic Urges OSCE to Crack Down on Attacks on JournalistsNew York--In an urgent appeal to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) denounced an attack by Bosnian Serb security forces on U.S. television cameraman Mike Kirsch and called for stricter OSCE enforcement of the provisions of the Dayton Accords pertaining to press freedom. Kirsch told CPJ that Serbian Security Forces beat him, seized his camera and confiscated his videocassette.
On Oct. 11, Kirsch, a free-lance journalist and cameraman working for Insight News Television Limited (INTV) of Great Britain, was videotaping a destroyed house in Jusici, a Muslim village now under the control of the Bosnian Serb Republic. According to Kirsch's own account of the incident, 10 Serb police with AK-47 assault rifles ran from around the house and yelled, "Don't move or we'll shoot!" He said the soldiers then ordered him to stop filming.
Kirsch told CPJ that two Serb police then "took turns shoving and kicking me" while they tried to take his camera. Kirsch said police knocked him to the ground, spit on him and pointed their guns at him. He said he tried to hand off his camera to a Danish International Police Task Force (IPTF) officer, but a Serb policeman pointed his gun at the Danish officer and ordered him to give up the camera.
Kirsch also reported that a U.S. Army cameraman, operating under the Peace Implementation Force (IFOR) command, filmed the entire scene. IFOR retrieved Kirsch's camera the next day and returned it to him, but the videocassette inside was missing. Kirsch and INTV have requested copies of the IFOR videotape of the attack, but these requests have been denied.
In an appeal to Flavio Cotti, chairman of the OSCE in Europe, CPJ Executive Director William A. Orme, Jr., called upon the OSCE to thoroughly investigate the incident and to ensure that Kirsch's videocassette is returned. CPJ also pointed out that the attack on Kirsch occurred nearly one month after the Sept. 14 elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and demonstrates a continued and blatant lack of fidelity to the Dayton Peace Accords. The accords, signed Dec. 14, 1995, guarantee freedom of movement and freedom of expression throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina. Addendum measures to the Dayton Accords further specify guarantees that journalists "will not be subject to detention, harassment or interference in pursuit of their legitimate activities." In light of these measures, CPJ called on OSCE to put an end to any further attacks on journalists in Bosnia and Herzegovnia.
CPJ is a New York-based nonprofit, nonpartisan organization devoted to the defense of press freedom around the world. On Sept. 6, 1996, CPJ issued a briefing on press freedom conditions prior to the Sept. 14 Bosnian elections. To obtain a hard copy of the report, call (212) 465-1004, x110.
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