(AP) Former Washington Post reporter Jonathan Randal won an appeal Wednesday to the U.N. war crimes tribunal and will not have to testify in court.
The five-judge panel said war correspondents should be allowed a limited exemption from being compelled to testify.
Before calling a journalist to appear, the judges said the court must be convinced that the “evidence has a direct and important value in determining a core issue in the case,” and that there is no reasonable alternative for obtaining the evidence.
In Randal’s case, the appeals court found there was an alternative and he did not need to testify.
The retired reporter had resisted a subpoena to appear against Radovan Brdjanin, a Bosnian Serb leader he interviewed in 1993 who is on trial for the persecution and expulsion of more than 100,000 non-Serbs during the Bosnian war.
The decision will be seen as setting a precedent in other international courts dealing with war situations.
Randal was supported in his appeal by 34 international news organizations, which asked the court to grant limited privilege for journalists against testifying to further their safety in the field and ability to gather information in war zones.
The court said it was in everyone’s interest for reporters to work freely in war zones, and to bring attention “to the horrors and reality of warfare.”
It noted that “images of suffering of detainees” at a detention camp in Bosnia “played a vital role in awakening the international community to the seriousness of the situation.”
Randal’s lawyer, Geoffrey Robertson, called the decision “a great boon for reporters.” He said the judges understood that “for war correspondents to be routinely compelled would threaten their neutrality.”
The prosecution in the Brdjanin case had argued that journalists should have no special privileges, and argued they were no different from other international workers, such as U.N. and Red Cross personnel.
In an article published Feb. 11, 1993, Randal quoted Brdjanin, whom he described as a Serbian housing official, as advocating the expulsion of non-Serbs from the Bosnian city of Banja Luka.
The article said Brdjanin “personally argued that those unwilling to defend Serb territory must be moved out but that the Serb political leadership so far had not agreed. He said he believed the exodus of non-Serbs should be carried out peacefully to create an ethnically clean space through voluntary movement. Muslims and Croats, he says, should not be killed, but should be allowed to leave — and good riddance.”
Randal was summoned after he told tribunal investigators that a local journalist was with him and had translated Brdjanin’s words. The prosecutors said they wanted him to testify because those quotes did not appear in an article written three days later by the second journalist, whose name was being kept secret for his own protection.