Kosovo paper must publish reply from Serb it accused of war crimes

PRISTINA, Jul 13, 2000 -- (AFP) Kosovo's media commissioner has ordered an Albanian language newspaper to publish an article giving a Serb it accused of war crimes the right of reply, an OSCE spokesman said Wednesday.

Douglas Davidson issued the Dita daily with the order after it refused to stop naming Serbs it believed were guilty of atrocities during Kosovo's 1998-1999 civil war. A Serb UN worker it accused in May was later abducted and killed.

"The man named in the article published after our first order to stop wants a right of reply. We have ordered Dita to give him one," said Roland Bless, a spokesman for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Davidson's office had also sent a warning letter about another article which appeared on July 4 in which a group photograph of what the paper said was a gang of Serb war criminals was published along with their names and details of their pre-war jobs and addresses, Bless said.

If the paper refuses to publish the Serb's reply or continues to name people it believes are guilty of war crimes it will be fined or face closure, he added.

Petar Topoljski, a 25-year-old employee of the UN mission in Kosovo, was abducted and stabbed to death less than two weeks after Dita published an article claiming he had been a member of a Serbian paramilitary unit.

Following his murder, the UN temporary media commissioner, whose office is supported by the OSCE, shut Dita down for 10 days.

The paper responded on June 24 by naming two more Serbs and vowing to continue to do so, a move which provoked the latest sanctions.

Bless said Daan Everts, the OSCE ambassador in Kosovo, met with Dita's editor and told him that if he had evidence against anyone he suspected of crimes he must report it to the authorities.

"If they want to report what they believe to be true, that's fine. If they want to criticize the courts, argue that they are too slow, that's no problem. But they can't name these men, whatever they think they did, and put their lives in danger," Bless said.

Bless said the order was sent to Dita late Tuesday and that the commissioner had yet to receive a reply.

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