Last Despatches: German Reporter Who Wanted to Tell Human Stories of War

Egon Scotland at a Kurdish refugee camp in Isikveren, eastern Turkey, April 1991. Photo: Photo courtesy of Christiane Schloetzer-Scotland. 

On July 26, 1991, in the early months of the war, German reporter Egon Scotland was travelling by car to the central Croatian town of Glina.

He and his colleague Peter Wuest, a radio reporter, went looking for some fellow journalists – two Austrians and one German who had gone out into the field but hadn’t returned.

But when they arrived in the village of Jukinac, they came under fire from Serb paramilitaries. One bullet hit Scotland, and by the time he made it to hospital, he had bled to death.

He had only arrived in Croatia to report on the war for German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung two weeks before he was killed.

Almost 150 journalists and other media workers were killed during and just after the wars in the former Yugoslavia. Scotland was the first – and his case is the only one so far in which anyone has been convicted.

Former Serbian paramilitary commander Dragan Vasiljkovic, widely known as Captain Dragan, was found guilty by a Croatian court of war crimes against civilians and prisoners of war, including the attack on Glina and the surrounding villages in July 1991, when civilians including Scotland were killed and property looted and destroyed.

Scotland’s widow, Christiane Schloetzer-Scotland, told BIRN that before the Yugoslav conflicts started, a war in Europe was unthinkable for her.

“We are the generation born after the Second World War, Egon was born in 1948, I was born in 1954. We could not imagine… a war in Europe,” Schloetzer-Scotland said.

“Yugoslavia was a neighbour, I spent holidays there, it was not like Iraq or Syria, much more close,” she added.

Read the full story here.

Last Despatches: about the series

BIRN’s Last Despatches series documents some of the reporters and other media workers who were killed during and after the 1990s wars in the Balkans – some of them foreigners who came to the region to cover the conflicts, but most of them citizens of the warring republics.

Some were killed while reporting from the front lines, while others were gunned down in the streets of their hometowns, or murdered in their own offices. Amid the hysteria of nationalist unrest, journalists were seen by some as enemies who reported inconvenient truths.

So far, only one person has been convicted of responsibility for any of these killings – Serb paramilitary boss Dragan Vasiljkovic, alias ‘Captain Dragan’.

The lack of any other convictions shows that impunity for violence against reporters and other media workers has persisted for decades after the Balkan wars ended.

Last Despatches series tells the stories of some of these reporters, and highlights how attempts to secure justice for them have not yet succeeded – mainly because of official negligence or disinterest, or sometimes because their deaths still raise questions about people with connections to the highest levels of power in the Balkans today.

The Last Despatches series is part of BIRN’s Transitional Justice Initiative, co-funded by the Kingdom of The Netherlands and the European Commission.

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