New York, March 17, 2000 — Nebojsa Ristic, head of an independent television station in Serbia, was released from prison today after serving almost 11 months of a one-year sentence imposed last April, according to CPJ’s sources in Belgrade. Ristic was arrested in April, 1999, and charged with disseminating false information under Article 218 of the Serbian penal code.
Ristic was editor of the independent television station TV Soko in Sokobanja. The charges resulted from a search of Ristic’s office, where police found a poster carrying the slogan “Free Press: Made in Serbia!” The reason given for his early release was that “his behavior had been corrected” during his prison term.
“While we welcome the news that Nebojsa Ristic was released, it is outrageous that he was jailed in the first place,” said CPJ Europe program coordinator Emma Gray. “President Milosevic’s recent actions show he is more intolerant than ever of independent journalism.”
Meanwhile, the Yugoslav government shows no signs of easing its clampdown on independent media. On March 16, local police and federal officials broke into the transmission facility of TV Pirot, in the town of Pirot, and removed broadcasting equipment. A ministry inspection note and a ruling instructing TV Pirot to stop broadcasting were found attached to the broken door. The closure of TV Pirot is the latest in a string of recent government attacks on independent Serbian broadcasters.