Serbia: Independent radio shut down!

Thursday, October 3, 1996


(Canadian Committee to Protect Journalists, 03 December 1996)

As 50,000 people demonstrate in the streets of Belgrade against Serbian PresidentSlobodan Milosevic's refusal to accept the results of last month's municipalelections (won in most Serbian cities by the opposition) the only independent radiostations reporting on the protests have been shut down.

Radio B92 and the student station Radio Index were forced off the air on December3rd. This is just one in a long list of press freedom abuses enforced by theautocratic Milosevic.

Freedom of Expression organizations around the world have rallied to defend Radio B92and all the affected media in Serbia. By modifying and faxing the letter includedbelow, you too can make your voice heard. CCPJ has successfully transmitted to allthe fax numbers listed below. Please send a copy of your appeal to the CCPJ.

December 3, 1996

His Excellency Slobodan Milosevic
President of Serbia
Fax: +381-11-682-167

Your Excellency,

The Canadian Committee to Protect Journalists, a coalition of Canadian journalistsand media corporations devoted to the protection and promotion of freedom ofexpression, is outraged that on 3 December 1996 at 15:00 hours, both Radio B92 andthe student station Radio Index were forced off the air. Over the past several days,Radio B92 had complained that its signal was being jammed. Radio B92 has now receiveda letter from the Ministry of Transportation and Communication saying the station wasoperating illegally.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists and the International Federation ofJournalists, the Serbian media has been the target of continued harassment bygovernment authorities for their coverage of the opposition protests, after yourgovernment annulled the 17 November municipal elections won in most Serbian cities bythe opposition. Unlike state media, Radio B92 and Radio Index have been covering themassive street demonstrations now happening in Belgrade. Radio B92 has severaljournalists reporting directly from the streets of Belgrade. On 27 November, RadioB92's transmission signal was blocked four times during news broadcasts about theprotest marches. From 28 November to 2 December, the broadcasts of B92's entireprograms from 9:00 to 2:00 were being jammed.

Radio B92 has also reported that the Yugoslav Federal Inspector for Traffic andCommunications on 29 November banned five radio stations (Radio Ozon, Radio Soliter,Dzoker Radio, Radio 96 and Star FM) in Cacak, one of the cities in Serbia where theopposition defeated Milosevic supporters in the recent local elections. Some of thestations had been broadcasting news programs from Radio B92. The station also reportsthat in Podgorica, Montenegro authorities are threatening not to extend the frequencylicense of Antenna M, Montenegro's only independent radio station.

Furthermore, the International Federation of Journalists reported that on 27 Novemberthe state-owned Borba publishing house refused to print more than 70,000 copies ofthe daily "Blic", which had started to print a circulation of 250,000 copies afterthe onset of the demonstrations. The entire editorial board of the newspaper resignedafter it was told to stop reporting on the demonstrations.

These attempts to silence the independent media in Serbia are blatant and grossviolations of international standards for press freedom. These attacks constitute anunacceptable interference by you and your ruling party in independent media coveragein Serbia.

The closure of Radio B92 and Radio Index are grave violations of the right to "seek,receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless offrontiers," as guaranteed by Article 19 of the United Nations Universal Declarationof Human Rights.

The CCPJ calls on your government to allow Radio B92 and Radio Index to resumeoperating immediately and allow the country's independent media to report on eventscurrently taking place in Serbia.

The CCPJ also calls on you, President Milosevic, to reverse the banning of RadioOzon, Radio Soliter, Dzoker Radio, Radio 96 and Star FM, and guarantee that "Blic"'sprinting rights will be restored.

Wayne Sharpe
Executive Director

cc His Excellency Zoran Lilic
President of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
Fax: +381-11-682-167

Aleksandra Tijanic
Minister of Information
Republic of Serbia
Fax: +381-11-685-937

Dragutin Brcin
Federal Minister of Information
Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
Fax: +381-11-600-446