Yugoslavia Prosecutes City Radio’s Nikola Duric

January 13, 1999

President Slobodan Milosevic
Bulevar Lenjina 2
11070 Novi Beograd
Federal Republic of Yugoslavia

We are writing to protest what Human Rights Watch and the Committee to Protect Journalists view as yet another illegal and unjustified attack on the independent media in Yugoslavia: the forthcoming trial of Nikola Duric, general manager and editor-in-chief of City Radio in Nis.

Mr. Duric’s trial is scheduled to take place on January 18, 1999, in Nis. He is charged with broadcasting a radio program without a license, based on Article 219, paragraph 1, of the Serbian criminal code. If convicted, he faces up to one year in prison.

The station was closed by the Ministry of Telecommunications on August 18, 1998, when two policemen entered the studio and seized part of the station’s transmitter.

While Mr. Duric did broadcast a radio program without a license, he did so only after having been denied a license in a politically based procedure that violates your government’s obligations under both domestic and international law. As we have commented many times in the past, we object to the politically motivated decision-making process employed by the Ministry of Telecommunications to distribute licenses for private radio and television stations. After a complex and contradictory application process, the ministry readily gives licenses to stations that are either pro-government or provide entertainment, while denying licenses to stations that are independent or report critically on the government. The few independent stations that do get licenses must pay disproportionately high fees.

In short, we believe that the state purposefully denies licenses to stations that are independent, and that City Radio, which fulfilled all application requirements for a license under the government’s 1998 frequency tender, was illegally denied a broadcast license based on its journalistic independence. Although the second round of the tender is technically still open, City Radio and dozens of other independent radio stations have not received any information about their pending applications.

City Radio is the first station to face criminal charges in connection with the distribution of frequencies. Four other stations in Nis are operating without a license, but none of them have been charged with illegal broadcasting. We believe that City Radio, as a member of the Association of Independent Electronic Media (ANEM) and a provider of objective news, is being targeted because it presents information that is critical of the government.

We consider the forthcoming trial against Mr. Duric to be in direct violation of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia’s obligations to guarantee freedom of the press, and we call on you to ensure that the charges against Mr. Duric are withdrawn. As a matter of urgency, a new set of media laws on the republic and federal level that guarantee the distribution of broadcast frequencies on a non-political basis should be adopted. Until then, we call on your government to permit all currently operating radio and television stations to broadcast without interference.


Ann K. Cooper
Executive Director

Holly Cartner
Executive Director, Europe and Central Asia Division, Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch
350 Fifth Avenue, 34th fl.
New York, NY. 10118

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President Slobodan Milosevic
Bulevar Lenjina 2
11070 Novi Beograd
Federal Republic of Yugoslavia