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06. 06. 2019.

Author: Jelena L. Petković ???source???: UNS

Walker negotiated, the KLA released journalists, and there was no investigation

The Tanjug’s news team, journalist Nabojsa Radosevic and photographer Vladimir Dobricic Kica, were captured on 18 October 1998, en route to an assignment near the Slatina Airport in Pristina. They were held in captivity by members of the KLA for 41 days, and released on the eve of the Albanian Flag Day of the same year.

Negotiations on their release were led by William Walker, the American diplomat who had just taken office as the Head of the OSCE’s Kosovo Verification Mission. They are the only Serbian news team that has survived captivity, however until their release, their families did not know if they were alive. No investigation of this kidnapping has ever been launched.

Vladimir Dobricic, born in 1948 in Tuzla, died at the end of 2003. In a conversation with the Journalists’ Association of Serbia, his son Ivan, talks about how everything that had happened to his father was quickly forgotten, and that nobody has contacted his family to talk about this topic.

- My father liked photography and began taking amateur photos back in high school, at the beginning of the 60’s. He managed to get a job in the Tanjug at a very early age, in 1969.  That was another country, and his job involved beautiful and nice photo shoots. 20 years later, during the revolution in the neighboring Romania, when Ceausescu and his wife were executed, father captured the event as a Tanjug’s photographer. Such type of photography ,,kind of got into his blood" and quite soon after that, in 1992 he was in Borovo Selo in Croatia, later in Benkovac and Knin. When the war in BiH started, he spent more time there than at home. In 1998, intense fighting in Kosovo started. He went there, although there were other photojournalists in the field. He wanted to go and spare his younger colleagues, because he was more experienced. He took photographs in Djakovica, Kosovska Mitrovica, Pec, everywhere ... Although he was in Pristina, we were in contact - not every day, because mobile phones were expensive and rare at the time, but he reported in - Ivan Dobricic recalls.

Vladimir Dobricic, said in his only interview for the "Nedeljni Telegraf" that on 18 October, Nebojsa and he went to visit the site of shooting which had happened the day before. They came across people in uniforms, but, as he said, he did not initially think that they were members of the KLA, because the group was near Slatina, in the artillery range of the Yugoslav National Army. Men in uniforms with rifles asked him to stop the Tanjug's official white Yugo Florida. They were imprisoned on the spot.

- It was morning, short news were being aired on BK Television. I heard on the TV in the other room that journalists Vladimir Dobricic and Nebojsa Radosevic had disappeared. I thought the worst. During the day, the Tanjug told us the same thing. They had nothing else to say except - they are gone. Quite a lot of time has passed until Mimico Djorgovic, the owner of the "Nedeljni Telegraf" in which I worked, said that he had information that Nebojsa and my father were alive, that they should be released and that their release was being negotiated. In the end, this turned out to be true, Ivan reminiscences.  

Freedom for TV

The Tanjug’s journalists were released before television cameras in the village of Dragobilje in Drenica. Domestic and foreign journalists were invited to the KLA headquarters for this occasion.

- My father called me from a satellite phone. While I was talking with him, only one thing was on my mind - if they survived, they had to have been beaten black and blue. I was trying to hear if he was lisping, if he had all his teeth or if all of them had been knocked out. He sounded quite normal, and witty as he was, he said that they had been "packed" into a vehicle, and he asked them to take him to "Kod kralja". To the pub. The next day he was in Belgrade. For the next five years, he did not talk much about those 40 days, but what he did say was said jokingly. For example, they were transferred from one prison to another- in fact these were some basements. The snow was so high that the tractor they were riding on got stuck. The driver picked up his Kalashnikov and fired into the air in Morse’s code. A "response" in the same way was heard from a distance. After a few hours, a team came to unstuck it. While he was in a basement, he told me that he was listening to his "jailer" unsuccessfully trying to "assemble" his Kalashnikov for hours. The jailer was clattering for hours, until father knocked on the door and asked – Do you want me to assemble it? And he did. He also said that they were forced to sing some songs. The whole time he was there they did not see any hygienic supplies. They were given a small quantity of food every day . Father lost almost 10 kilograms - says Ivan Dobricic.

At the time of his capture, Vladimir Dobricic had several photos on him, inter alia,  of Ibrahim Rugova, Veton Surroi, but also one that he always carried in his wallet.

- It’s a photograph with Slobodan Milosevic and father thought that they had survived precisely because of that photograph, which seems rather illogical. The moment they realized that they were facing the KLA soldiers with balaclavas, Nebojsa shouted: ’’Run’’, and my father stopped the car. A commander who spoke Serbian came up to them and said: ’’Had you gone two more meters, you would have been shot. Now, get out!’’  They blindfolded them and tied their hands. My father was neither a supporter of Milosevic, nor a party member, he rather carried that picture in his wallet "just in case" he were stopped by the traffic police. People from the KLA immediately searched them, took all their documents, and loudly commented on what they had found. At one point a  hush fell over the group. Father immediately knew that they had seen the picture with Milosevic and thought: "These few seconds are crucial - they will immediately kill us or we will survive." They survived. Father told me that this KLA also had factions and that they were captured by the softest one - says Ivan Dobricic.

Investigation would mean a lot to us

- My father died suddenly in late 2003 – he lived another 5 years after being held captive. You are the only one who has contacted our family since then. And then, I do not want to be derisive, but rather to present the facts, Nebojsa and he got a week for two in Kopaonik from the state and some money, which father spent on a suit. It would mean a lot to us if this crime were prosecuted. We were sorry, especially when he fell ill, because of his treatment at the hospital. We never asked for anything special, aware of what people had lost in those wars, but there was no place for him in a hospital room either. He was lying in the corridor. I remember that my mother said: "For goodness sake, he was a prisoner in Kosovo".

Fieldwork in Kosovo  

Ivan Dobricic is also a photographer, but says he has not gone down that path following in his father's footsteps:

- I started working as a photojournalist during the protests against electoral theft in 1996. I protested, but I realized that my contribution could be better than fighting with the police and being hit with water cannons. So I began taking photographs, I liked night photography, and my photographs ended up on the cover of the newspaper called "Demokratija" for several consecutive days.  That's how they noticed me and called to the "Nedeljni Telegraf". When our army withdrew I also went to Kosovo as a part of the news team, but I did not tell my family where I was going.


Photographs remained in the archive

- My father's photographs remained in the Tanjug’s archive in Pristina and I do not know if they were preserved at all. At home, I have some photos of crimes in Racak and crimes against Serb civilians - says Ivan Dobricic

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