Several hundred mark Serb journalist's murder

BELGRADE, Apr 12, 2000 -- (Reuters) Several hundred people gathered in Belgrade on Tuesday to mark the anniversary of the unsolved killing of a prominent journalist and publisher.

"Even today we do not know who murdered him, but we do know he was killed because of his words," a speaker told some 200 people packed into Belgrade's Media Center for a solemn commemoration ceremony of Slavko Curuvija's murder.

Another crowd blocked a road in the city center to unveil a plaque saying Curuvija died for his "sharp and critical words".

Curuvija, the outspoken founder and owner of the daily newspaper Dnevni Telegraf and periodical Evropljanin, was gunned down outside his Belgrade apartment block the third week into last year's NATO air campaign against Yugoslavia.

Five days earlier, state television had broadcast a commentary by a pro-government daily accusing him of treason and of welcoming NATO bombs, something Curuvija's supporters have said amounted to a call for a lynching.

Opposition leaders said the murder was aimed at sowing fear among opponents of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.

"In a country where the regime's only goal is to stay in power, the victims are guilty, any punishment is just and silence is the best response," prominent columnist Aleksandar Tijanic told the ceremony.

"Our eyes, so used to darkness, will take a long time to get used to the light," he added.

In the year since Curuvija was killed, police have released no details of their investigation.

Serbia's ultra-nationalist deputy prime minister said on Tuesday he was killed in a criminal showdown.

"He did not die as a journalist but as a criminal, in a clash among criminals," Vojislav Seselj told the Serbian parliament on Tuesday. He did not elaborate.

A year ago, Curuvija, who had published articles extremely critical of Milosevic, seemed to have known he was in danger.

"They can only stop me if they kill me. After me, it will be everyone else's turn," Curuvija's colleague Mitar Jakovlevski quoted him as saying shortly before he was killed.

Serbia has seen dozens of unsolved murders in recent years, including the Serbian police chief and Yugoslav defence minister, who was gunned down in a restaurant in February.

Curuvija's daily was banned in 1998 for "spreading fear, panic and defeatism" about possible NATO air strikes on Yugoslavia over its repression of the ethnic Albanian majority in Kosovo. Both it and the weekly had previously been fined.

Both publications were re-registered in Montenegro, which unlike its larger partner Serbia favors liberal reform. When NATO started bombing in March last year, Curuvija stopped publishing to avoid subjecting his papers to war censorship.

Original article