Reporters Without Borders

International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia: journalist summoned to give evidence before the ICTY appeals against the judges’ decision

Published on Wednesday 2 October 2002.
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The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) decided on 7 June 2002 to subpoena former Washington Post journalist Jonathan Randal to testify before the court concerning an interview he had conducted in 1993 with a former Bosnian Serb leader. The journalist had previously refused to comply with the summons issued by the Tribunal’s Chamber dealing with the trial of the Bosnian Serb leaders Momir Talic and Radoslav Brdjanin.

The ICTY’s Appeals Chamber will examine Jonathan Randal’s appeal on 3 October 2002.

Reporters Without Borders, together with 34 media and press freedom organisations, submitted an amici curiae brief in support of Mr Randal’s appeal. Reporters Without Borders also wrote a letter of protest to the Tribunal’s Chief Prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte, on 12 June 2002. "If journalists working in war zones are now to be seen as aides to international courts, the already very dangerous job of war correspondent will soon become impossible," stated Robert Ménard, Secretary-General of the organisation. "Reporters give evidence about world events, but in real time and for the benefit of international public opinion," he added.

In a letter dated 18 July 2002, Mrs Del Ponte replied that the right of journalists not to reveal their sources, which would justify granting journalists exemption from having to give evidence in court, did not apply in the Randal case. The Chief Prosecutor went on to say that Mr Randal had already agreed to be interviewed by investigators and that the summons to appear on 29 January 2002 was intended only to "confirm the authenticity and exactness of the statements and comments gathered from the accused Brdjanin and published in an article which appeared at the time of the conflict in the former Yugoslavia." According to Mrs Del Ponte, "appearing before the court at this time in no way meant that Mr Randal would have to reveal any secret or confidential information he had received in relation to this same article."

This response failed to satisfy Reporters Without Borders, however. "We have always supported the establishment of an international justice, but even the best causes do not justify the violation of the fundamental principle of protection of journalists’ sources," stated Robert Ménard on the eve of Mr Randal’s appeal.

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