Schofield death highlights perils for journalists

Click to follow
The Independent Online
The Foreign Office is expected to press the Croatian authorities for a full inquiry into the death of John Schofield, the BBC reporter killed by Croatian gunfire on Wednesday.

Mr Schofield, 29, and three BBC colleagues were filming Croatian army soldiers torching houses near the village of Vrginmost, south of Zagreb, when the team came under sustained fire. They fell to the ground but the shooting continued from close range, and Mr Schofield, who was wearing a flak jacket, was shot in the neck. Two colleagues were slightly injured. Shortly after, Croatian soldiers appeared to apologise for the attack, and arranged to evacuate the team.

Zagreb at first suggested that Mr Schofield had been killed by Serb forces. However, the BBC and British diplomats in Zagreb are satisfied that the shots came from Croats,who were "nervous and jumpy".

Reporters sans Frontieres, an international organisation of journalists, wrote to President Franjo Tudjman of Croatia yesterday to protest at the killing and to demand an impartial inquiry into Mr Schofield's death.

Mr Schofield, who worked for BBC radio, was the 56th journalist killed on assignment during four years of war in former Yugoslavia. The victims include 24 foreigners and 32 local reporters, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Troops often object to television crews filming what they see as sensitive areas, and have threatened many reporters. But it is more usual to steal or confiscate video tape, film or camera equipment, or to shoot to frighten, than actually to kill reporters in cold blood.

Many reporters have been shot, very deliberately, by snipers while driving cars clearly marked with "TV"- the sign of a press car. There has been much debate over whether to mark cars or not: large news agencies use white armoured Land Rovers, which are often mistaken for UN vehicles.

The last reporters to die in Bosnia were two Americans from Spin magazine who drove over a mine near Mostar while trying to find the road to Sarajevo.

Several journalists wounded in the war have returned, including Margaret Moth, a CNN camerawoman shot through the jaw in Sarajevo, Martin Bell, who was hit by shrapnel in the city, Rob Celliers, shot by a sniper in the Serb-held suburb of Ilidza and Corinne Dufka, a Reuter photographer injured by a mine in Gornji Vakuf. The first three are in Bosnia, Ms Dufka has moved to Africa and covers Rwanda.