Nine journalists attacked in two days of anti-Milosevic protests in Belgrade

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September 30, 1999— At least four reporters were injured and the offices of a major opposition newspaper closed as police continued to use force to muzzle demonstrations during the second consecutive day of protests in Belgrade on Thursday, September 30.

Police moved quickly to block demonstrators who tried to cross a bridge from the city center into New Belgrade. According to CPJ’s Belgrade sources, Slavisa Lekic, a journalist with the Banja Luca newspaper Reporter,and Reuters reporter Julijana Mojsilovic were clubbed by police while covering protests led by the Alliance for Change, an eclectic coalition united in opposition to Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosovic.

An eyewitness from the Beta news agency in Belgrade also reported seeing police break the lens of a camera belonging to Imre Sabo, a photographer with the local daily Danas,while Belgrade’s independent TV Studio B announced that police smashed the TV camera of Studio B cameraman Zoran Vujovic and confiscated equipment belonging to a local radio station.

On Wednesday, September 29, at least five journalists were among a group of over 45 people attacked by riot police during a protest march that apparently attracted over 20,000 anti-Milosevic demonstrators. Aleksandra Rankovic, a Beta News Agency reporter, and Milos Radivojisa, a cameraman with Belgrade’s Video Nedeljnik, were clubbed by police as they attempted to follow protesters to Dedinje, a Belgrade suburb where Serbian President Slobodan Milosovich resides.

Two other journalists, an unnamed CNN and SKY TV cameraman and Reuters photographer Goran Tomasevic, were also reported to have also been attacked. Police destroyed their equipment and confiscated their footage of the demonstration.

Shortly after midnight on the morning of Friday, October 1, police sealed the office of the opposition newspaper Glas Javnostiand shut down its printing press, which sources say was used to print leaflets and flyers for opposition parties, including the Alliance of Change.

Danas quoted Information Ministry spokesman Alexander Vucic to the effect that while the Interior Ministry is technically responsible for protecting journalists, the latter should in fact expect to “take care of their own safety.”

Most news reports concur that the attacks were unprovoked. However, ultranationalist politician Vojislav Seselj, leader of the Serbian Radical Party, claimed that the demonstrators struck first by hurling stones and broken bottles. Seselj added that the police “should have responded more fiercely.”

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