CPJ Update: Press Caught in Crossfire of Kosovo Conflict

April 16, 1999 — The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a nonpartisan organization dedicated to safeguarding press freedom around the world, has documented several alarming new developments for the press in Yugoslavia.

April 15 – Independent Media Commission Orders Kanal S Television Off the Air

The Independent Media Commission (IMC), a body comprised of local and Western “media experts” established to set media standards for Bosnia-Herzegovina under the Dayton Accords, has ordered Kanal S, often referred to as “Karadzic TV,” to stop broadcasting. The IMC ruled that Kanal S’s coverage of the Kosovo conflict was “inflammatory and systematically inaccurate.” The Pale-based Kanal S, which serves a largely Serbian audience, has focused on the NATO air campaign as aggression against the Serbian people, and given no coverage to the plight of the ethnic Albanian Kosovars.

April 14 – NATO Bombs Serbian TV Transmitter in Cacak; Funeral in Belgrade for Slain Independent Publisher

NATO continued its policy, initiated on April 8, of targeting Serb television transmitters as purveyors of propaganda, by bombing the TV transmitter in Cacak.

More than 2,000 people attended the funeral of Slavko Curuvija, the publisher of the independent newspaper Dnevni Telegraf and the independent magazine Evropljanin, who was assassinated on a Belgrade street on April 11. While state-run Serb television and radio failed to cover the murder, the city-run Studio B in Belgrade broadcast the official police statement announcing an investigation into the murder. Yugoslav Vice President Vuk Draskovic, leader of the Serbian Renewal Movement, who oversees Studio B’s operations, also issued a statement, saying that Curuvija “is the first and let¹s hope the last victim of retaliation in an ideological and unreasonable fight.”

April 13 – Serb Troops Force TV-Montenegro to Broadcast Serbian TV¹s News Programming; Independent Radio B92 Staff Refuses to Work for Milosevic Appointees

Federal troops entered the offices of TV-Montenegro and demanded that the state-run Montenegrin station broadcast news reports produced by RTS, the state-run Serb television network. In order to avoid the implicit threat of a takeover, the TV-Montenegro management acquiesced and provided RTS with a half-hour of air-time in prime time, although it continues to broadcast programming from the U.S.-based CNN, the British Sky news, the Italian RAI, and the Spanish TVE.

The 45 full-time and 30 part-time employees of the Belgrade-based independent radio station B92 announced their resignations from the newly reconstituted station, now run by Milosevic loyalists, which began broadcasting on Monday. An official statement released by ANEM, the independent broadcasters’ network, said that the original staff disassociated itself from the “usurping management.” The independent journalists formerly comprising B92 intend to remain in Serbia “out of loyalty to their listeners,” and hope to restore B92’s independence and integrity after the war.

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