New York, March 14, 2000 — In the latest government attack on independent media in Yugoslavia, police have shut down the opposition-run station Radio Television Pozega in the city of Pozega, 60 miles southwest of Belgrade.
Police seized the station’s transmitter during the night of March 11-12, after accusing RTV Pozega of operating without a license and failing to pay state fees for using its frequency. Staff produced payment slips, which the police ignored, to prove that they had in fact paid the requisite fees.
A few hours before the raid, RTV Pozega broadcast an urgent appeal for listeners and viewers to defend the station. Several hundred people gathered to prevent police from removing the station’s transmitter. Late at night, however, after the protesters dispersed, police broke into the station and seized transmission equipment.
Around 2000 demonstrators gathered in Pozega on Monday to protest the station’s shutdown. That same day, demonstrators also rallied in the town of Cuprija to protest last week’s closure of the independent stations TV Nemanja and Radio Tir. The only independent radio station in the town of Pozarevac, Radio Boom 93, was also closed last week, also for allegedly failing to meet licensing requirements.
The government’s attacks have not been limited to small towns. In Belgrade, pressure continues to mount on the independent TV station Studio B, which also hosts the popular independent radio station B292. On March 6, police raided the station’s transmission facility, destroying equipment and seriously injuring two security guards. Later that day, Studio B and its director, Dragan Kojadinovic, were fined 450,000 dinars (US$39,000) for remarks made by a guest during a live broadcast.
Today, the opposition municipal authorities in Belgrade paid the government nearly US$1 million to settle debts allegedly owed to the federal government by Studio B. City Hall made the payment, it said, in order to prevent conflict between Studio B and the Milosevic regime.
“We condemn the recent spate of shutdowns,” said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper. “With local and federal elections scheduled for later this year, the authorities are resorting to desperate and undemocratic tactics in their efforts to stifle dissenting voices.”