Slavko Ćuruvija, an editor of several newspapers critical of the then government of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, was murdered on 11 April 1999 outside his home in Belgrade by two masked men. Many observers suspected that his murder was instigated by the authorities, in reprisal for his role as a leading independent journalist.
Slavko Ćuruvija was editor of the independent Belgrade daily, Borba, until it was taken over by the authorities in 1994, when he resigned. The same year he founded the weekly Nedeljni Telegraf, and later the daily Dnevni Telegraf and Evropljanin, a magazine.
In October 1998 when NATO threatened air-strikes, the Serbian government introduced a decree which effectively banned several newspapers, including the Dnevni Telegraf. The rebroadcast of foreign stations like the BBC, Voice of America and Deutsche Welle was also banned. The decree was quickly followed by a draconian new Law on Information which allowed for fines of up to 80,000 US dollars and gave limited opportunities for appeal.
Under this law Evropljanin was heavily fined for an article critical of President Milošević. Dnevni Telegraf and Evropljanin were re-registered in Montenegro, where they were printed, but attempts to distribute them in Serbia were frequently frustrated by seizures.
Slavko Ćuruvija’s passport was confiscated and in March 1999 he was sentenced, together with two other journalists from the Dnevni Telegraf, to five months’ imprisonment on charges of “spreading false information” for an article which linked a minister in the Serbian government to the murder of the director of a Belgrade medical institute. The three remained free pending appeal.
Slavko Ćuruvija had written for a number of foreign newspapers, including the British press – the Guardian, the Independent and the European. In December 1998 he had expressed his concerns about restrictions on the Yugoslav press to the Political Committee of the Council of Europe.
In 2015 proceedings opened against four former state officials indicted for complicity in the shooting of Slavko Ćuruvija. Two of them were arrested in 2014 and are currently under home arrest. A third man is in prison for other crimes, and the fourth is on the run and is being tried in absentia. The trial is ongoing.