Slavko Curuvija, owner and editor-in-chief of two independent newspapers, was one of the most influential critical voices in 1990s Serbia. He was shot 13 times in front of his home in Belgrade on April 11, 1999. Just days before his assassination, pro-government media had labeled the 49-year-old journalist a *“traitor”* for calling on NATO to bomb targets in Serbia. Two other important members of the security services, Ratko Romic and Miroslav Kurak, had been sentenced to 20 years in prison each.
The prosecutor and the defense had appealed. The appeals court announced that it had decided to acquit them *“in the absence of direct and indirect evidence that would reliably confirm the involvement of the accused Markovic, Radonjic, Kurak, and Romic.”* Radomir Markovic is already serving a 40-year prison sentence for the murder of former Serbian President Ivan Stambolic and four other opposition political leaders in the 1990s. This is the first final verdict in Serbia for the murder of a journalist; there is still no judicial conclusion for the murders of journalists Milan Pantic, assassinated in 2001, and Dada Vujasinovic, killed in 1994. *“I am shocked by this scandalous verdict,”* reacted the daughter of the slain journalist to the news site N1: *“it’s proof that the dark forces of the 1990s still rule this country.”* This acquittal *“deals a blow to the fight against impunity for crimes committed against journalists in the Balkans,”* said Pavol Szalai, the representative of Reporters Without Borders in the Balkans.
*“A sad day for journalism,”* reacted US Ambassador to Serbia Christopher Hill on X. *“I work because I want this country to be organized in such a way that editors-in-chief and journalists can freely create their own newspapers, that these newspapers can be freely sold, and that citizens can freely read them,”* Slavko Curuvija had declared shortly before his death. In 2023, Serbia was ranked 91st out of 180 in the Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index.