Editor of opposition paper shot dead in Montenegro

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The Independent Online

The editor-in-chief of an opposition daily newspaper in Montenegro died yesterday after being shot. Dusko Jovanovic, 40, was sprayed with bullets from an automatic rifle as got into his car in front of the offices of the Podgorica daily, Dan (The Day) about midnight on Thursday. The killers fled in a dark-coloured car.

The Dan is known for its sharp criticism of the ruling coalition in Montenegro, headed by Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic. In 2001, Dan was the first local paper to reprint a series of articles from the Croatian pressdetailing cigarette smuggling in Montenegro. The newspaper revealed the names, firms abroad and methods of money laundering for Mr Djukanovic.

Another blow from the paper came in November 2002, when the human trafficking affair exploded in Montenegro. Dan published minutes from the investigation, the story told by a trafficked Moldova woman named Svetlana S.

She accused a number of leading officials in Montenegro of exploiting her as a sex slave. Among them were the state prosecutor and one of his deputies, known to be close to Mr Djukanovic.

Mr Djukanovic had filed a lawsuit against Mr Jovanovic and the paper in connection with those stories and a court hearing was to begin next month. The editor, who used to be a deputy in Montenegro's parliament, had received numerous death threats, an early edition of the paper reported yesterday.

The killing was "the most horrible form of silencing Dan," the paper said. "It was not just the shooting of a brave man, but ... [of] free speech and independent journalism and democracy."

The Belgrade office of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe condemned the killing, saying that "there can be no free society without free media.... There can be no free media if journalists work in an atmosphere of fear and violence."

Mr Jovanovic is the first journalist to be executed mafia-style in Montenegro. Mr Djukanovic condemned the murder as "attack on the stability of Montenegro and a threat to the security of all its citizens."

In 2003, a UN tribunal charged Mr Jovanovic for publishing the name of a protected prosecution witness in the trial of the former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic. The charges were dropped after Mr Jovanovic published an editorial apology.

The tiny republic of 650,000 people has spent the past 15 years under Mr Djukanovic. He has glided from the premiership to the presidential post and back to the premiership since 1989.

Mr Djukanovic was the darling of the West in the era of Slobodan Milosevic, presenting himself as a pro-democracy and pro-Western leader, who opposed the iron fist of Mr Milosevic.

In return, the West turned a blind eye to the multimillion-dollar business of cigarette smuggling that thrived under Mr Djukanovic's regime. He has kept a low profile in this line of work since Mr Milosevic fell from power in 2000.