Attacks on the Press 2000: Yugoslavia

PROSPECTS FOR PRESS FREEDOM IN YUGOSLAVIA BRIGHTENED when President Slobodan Milosevic finally accepted election results and resigned on October 6. The elected dictator’s all-out war on the independent media was a thing of the past, but official habits of intimidating the press did not disappear, and the difficulty of reforming Serbia’s state-run media became evident. In the Republic of Montenegro, threats to independent journalists subsided significantly. The threat remained intense in the embattled province of Kosovo, still under international control as this volume went to press.

When the federal presidential elections were held on September 24, the hard work of independent journalists, along with student activists from the Otpor movement, had exposed the corruption of the Milosevic regime and ensured his defeat. At first, the state-run Election Commission claimed that no candidate won an outright majority and ordered a second round on October 8. But supporters of Vojislav Kostunica, the Democratic Opposition of Serbia candidate, refused to give in.

As opposition demonstrators pressed ahead in a series of nationwide protests that were publicized by independent media, state media outlets also began to rebel. When opposition supporters stormed the Yugoslav Parliament and set it ablaze on October 5, the state news agency Tanjug declared its independence from Milosevic and started referring to opposition leader Kostunica as the president-elect of Yugoslavia. Employees of the state television network Radio and Television Serbia (RTS) had already begun to resist broadcasting government propaganda by October 5, when protesters set fire to RTS headquarters in Belgrade, knocking the station off the air.

Within days, the police, the Yugoslav Army, and other senior government officials had all recognized Kostunica as the new president of Yugoslavia and Milosevic finally conceded defeat. Independent journalists were suddenly able to work without fear of the police raids, outrageous fines, confiscation of printing and broadcasting equipment, or jamming of their transmissions that had been a regular feature of Milosevic’s rule.

Within days of Kostunica’s swearing in, the Yugoslav Army’s Supreme Military Court ordered the release from prison of Miroslav Filipovic, a correspondent for the independent Belgrade daily Danas and a regular contributor to Agence France-Presse and the London-based Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR). Arrested on May 8 after writing a series of articles for IWPR that documented atrocities committed by the Yugoslav Army in Kosovo, Filipovic was found guilty of espionage and spreading false information. On July 26, he was sentenced to serve seven years in prison.

CPJ and other international press freedom groups pressured Serb authorities to revoke the journalist’s conviction and release him from prison. After Filipovic’s conviction was overturned on procedural grounds, however, he still faced a possible retrial.

Despite their rousing declarations of independence from the Milosevic regime, state-run media failed to present a more diverse array of opinions under President Kostunica. RTS, in particular, merely shifted from promoting Milosevic and his Socialist Party of Serbia to promoting Kostunica and the Democratic Opposition of Serbia. Some independent journalists were still subjected to official harassment because of their work. The new government also attempted to install loyalist officials on the managing boards of state-run media.

On December 7, CPJ sent a letter to Kostunica recommending that he establish an official body to review and rectify the injustices committed against the independent media during the Milosevic regime. The letter recommended that this body establish procedures for returning or paying compensation for transmission equipment confiscated from broadcasters and refunding or providing tax breaks to compensate for the numerous fines imposed on media outlets under the notorious Serbian Information Law. CPJ also urged the Kostunica government to repeal the Information Law and conduct a thorough investigation of the financial privileges and regulatory preferences that certain media outlets had received from the Milosevic government in exchange for pro-regime coverage.

On December 16, Federal Telecommunications Minister Boris Tadic announced that his ministry would return confiscated radio and television equipment. The federal Constitutional Court ruled on December 17 and 30 that virtually all of the Information Law was unconstitutional.

The Democratic Opposition of Serbia won an overwhelming majority in the December 23 Serbian parliamentary elections. Kostunica’s political ally and rival, Zoran Djindjic, was appointed prime minister. After the election, Djindjic’s interior minister-designate, Dusan Mihajlovic, immediately announced that he would open the archives of Serbia’s notorious State Security Service (SDB). Such a step could shed light on the SDB’s alleged role in the April 1999 assassination of Slavko Curuvija, editor of the Belgrade daily Dnevni Telegraf, and on the October 1999 assassination attempt against Zeljko Kopanja, editor of the Banja Luka daily Nezavisne Novine.

Pro-independence Montenegrin president Milo Djukanovic still controls the state-run Radio and Television Montenegro (RTCG). In February, Milosevic’s Montenegrin allies and the Yugoslav Army, the only functioning federal institution, imported television broadcasting equipment into the republic and unilaterally began transmitting pro-Milosevic programming. Monitors from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) noted that the illegal broadcasts “assured a more complete representation of the political spectrum” before June 11 local elections in the cities of Podgorica and Herceg Novi.

The risks for journalists in both republics eased significantly following Milosevic’s departure. The Yugoslav Army treated journalists and others with more restraint. RTS and RTCG also agreed to resume broadcasting in each other’s territory, which allowed the debate over Montenegro’s future political relationship with Serbia to continue in a less combative tone.

In Kosovo, NATO forces had since 1999 limited Milosevic’s ability to spark discord and conflict. Nonetheless, local journalists were often the victims of ethnically and politically motivated violence, much of it the legacy of Milosevic’s heavy-handed and violent policies. Lawlessness, rampant organized crime, and ongoing violence against Serbs and other ethnic minorities meant that journalists faced considerable danger in conducting their work.

Pristina’s multi-ethnic Radio Kontakt, for example, had previously sought protection from United Nations police, NATO’s Kosovo Stabilization Force (KFOR), and the OSCE in response to escalating threats and violence against the station. Radio Kontakt, which broadcasts in Serbian, Bosniak, Albanian, Turkish, and Romany and has controversially championed the idea that Kosovo should be a multi-ethnic community, was the target of a rocket-propelled grenade attack on April 17. Two months later, on the evening of June 20, Valentina Cukic, the editor of Serbian-language programming at Radio Kontakt, was shot in the chest by unknown gunmen. At the time of the attack, Cukic was wearing KFOR press credentials that clearly identified her as a journalist.

Kosovo’s international administration struggled to balance respect for freedom of expression with the need to restrict the incitement of hatred and violence. In March, the newspapers Bota Sot and Zeri I Kosovoes published articles about alleged Serb war criminals living in Kosovo, leading some Serbs to flee the province in fear for their lives. On April 27, the Pristina daily Dita published an article alleging that 25-year-old Petar Topoljski, a Kosovo Serb working for the UN, had committed atrocities against Albanians during the 1999 war. Eleven days later, Topoljski’s body was found with multiple stab wounds on the bank of a river near Pristina.

On June 3, UN police and NATO soldiers occupied the offices of Dita after Bernard Kouchner, the chief UN administrator of the province, ordered the newspaper closed for eight days. On June 17, UN authorities issued emergency press regulations to stop local media outlets from publishing information that could endanger any individual. The OSCE then established a Temporary Media Commission empowered to warn, fine, and suspend media outlets that identified alleged Serb war criminals in Kosovo. Locally, however, such vigilante journalism is viewed in part as a response to the UN’s slow and ineffective efforts to prosecute war criminals. International press freedom groups, notably the U.S.-based World Press Freedom Committee, described the UN emergency regulations as heavy-handed and counterproductive.

All media

Serbian deputy Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj, leader of the ultranationalist Serbian Radical Party, described local journalists as pro-Western “traitors,” and blamed them for the murder of Defense Minister Pavel Bulatovic.

Addressing independent reporters at a press conference in Belgrade, Seselj said, “You are working against the state…. You are paid by Americans to wreck the state. You are traitors, you are the worst, there is nothing worse than you. Those who work for Americans will suffer consequences.”

Seselj went on to describe Serbian independent journalists as “accomplices” of the U.S., Britain, and France, whom he accused of being behind Bulatovic’s killing several days earlier. “You are accomplices in the murder,” Seselj said.

Studio B Television
Radio B2-92

After a predawn raid in which two employees were injured and transmission equipment stolen, the opposition station Studio B Television and the independent station Radio B2-92 were abruptly knocked off the air in Belgrade.

At approximately 3 a.m. local time, five men wearing Serbian police uniforms forced their way into the Broadcasting Center in the Belgrade suburb of Torlak, assaulted two security guards, and confiscated transmission equipment belonging to Studio B and Radio B2-92. Equipment belonging to other stations that broadcast from the same facility, such as Belgrade’s BK Television, was untouched.

A few hours after the attack, Telecommunications Minister Ivan Markovic ordered Studio B to pay a fine of 11 million dinars (US$850,000), for alleged broadcasting-license violations. The station was told to pay within eight days or face suspension of its license. According to Dusan Markovic, the station’s technical director, Studio B had already been issued a valid 10-year license and was under no obligation to pay the fine.

CPJ published a news alert immediately after the March 7 raid.

Radio Television Pozega

Local police shut down the opposition-run station Radio Television Pozega (RTV Pozega) in the city of Pozega, 60 miles (100 kms) 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 they had in fact paid the requisite fees.

A few hours before the raid, several hundred people gathered to prevent police from removing the station’s transmitter after RTV Pozega broadcast an appeal for listeners and viewers to defend the station. Late at night, however, after the protesters dispersed, police broke into the station and seized its equipment.

Some 2000 demonstrators later gathered in Pozega to protest the station’s shutdown. Demonstrators also rallied in the town of Cuprija to protest the 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, for allegedly failing to meet licensing requirements.

On March 14, CPJ published a news alert condemning the closures.

TV Pirot

Local police and federal officials broke into the transmission facility of TV Pirot, in the town of Pirot, and removed broadcasting equipment.

A Telecommunications Ministry inspection notification and ruling instructing the station to cease broadcasting were found attached to the broken door.

Niske Novine

Niske Novine, a daily newspaper based in the southern Serbian town of Nis, was fined 300,000 dinars (US$25,800) under the Serbian Information Law. The paper’s editor, Miroslav Zupanjevac, was fined 100,000 dinars (US$8600). The fines were imposed to punish the paper for an article titled “We Are Raising Our Voices Against War.”

The article included quotes from a February 29 press conference held by officials of the opposition-controlled Nis city government, who objected to the mobilization of army reservists in southern Serbia.

The suit was filed by a local office of the Yugoslav Army.

Studio B Television

Studio B was ordered to pay 300,000 dinars (US$25,840) in fines resulting from a lawsuit brought by Branko Djuric, chief of the Belgrade Police Department. Djuric accused the station of violating the Serbian Information Law by broadcasting comments that implicated him in an alleged assassination attempt against the station’s director, Vuk Draskovic (also the head of the country’s main opposition party, the Serbian Renewal Movement).

Under the Information Law, nonpayment of a fine can result in the confiscation of property from the relevant media outlet or individual.

On October 3, 1999, a truck swerved into Draskovic’s car, injuring him and killing his brother-in-law and three others. The station broadcast a statement in which Draskovic claimed Djuric’s presence on the scene so soon after the accident was suspicious. (Djuric was quoted as saying, “The scum is still alive.”) Dragan Kojadinovic, the station’s director, was personally fined a further 150,000 dinars (US$12,900).

Kojadinovic refused to pay either fine arising from the April charge. He announced that Studio B had received official notification that the 300,000 dinar (US$25,800) fine would be collected from the station’s bank account.

Meanwhile, local sources said Studio B’s phone service had been temporarily switched off. The station was also prevented from purchasing fuel, tapes, and other basic equipment.

The government also harassed Studio B by jamming its news and other programming. At one time, according to Kojadinovic, more than half the Belgrade population could not receive Studio B because of electronic interference.

Aleksandar Tijanic, Nezavisne Novine

Serbian ultranationalist leader and deputy prime minister Vojislav Seselj made veiled threats against Tijanic, a columnist and correspondent for the Banja Luka newspaper Nezavisne Novine. (Banja Luka is a town in Republika Srpska, the Serbian-controlled entity in Bosnia-Herzegovina.)

Appearing on a government TV program, Seselj suggested that Tijanic might suffer a fate similar to that of the late Slavko Curuvija, an independent publisher who was murdered in Belgrade in April 1999. Suggesting that Curuvija had been killed because he was “of no further use to the American secret services,” Seselj added, “The Americans will do the same with others, like Aleksandar Tijanic, use them and throw them away like squeezed lemons.”

Tijanic responded the next day, saying in an interview with the independent news agency Beta that if anything happened to him, “Seselj should know that it will not be forgotten as long as there are journalists in Serbia, and everyone will know who was to blame.”

Milosevic government officials had long accused independent journalists of being traitors in the pay of foreign agencies. At a press conference in Belgrade on February 10, Seselj described journalists from a number of independent news agencies (including Radio B2-92 and the newspapers Glas Javnosti, Blic, and Danas) as “traitors to the Serb nation” and “murderers of your people and your country.”

CPJ condemned Seselj’s statement in an April 21 news alert. On May 12, sources in Belgrade told CPJ that Tijanic had declined an offer to become Nezavisne Novine’s Rome correspondent, deciding to stay on in Banja Luka.


The Belgrade weekly Vreme was fined 150,000 dinars (US$12,900), while the magazine’s editor, Filip Svarm, and its business manager, Dragoljub Zarkovic, were each fined 100,000 dinars (US$8,600). The fines were assessed under the Serbian Information Law, based on a February 26 Vreme article which claimed that a former director of the Belgrade National Theater had been wrongfully dismissed.

Studio B Television

Jamming of the signal of Belgrade opposition television station Studio B intensified. The station’s signal was unreadable in parts of Belgrade, and a power cut to a transmission facility meant that about two million regional viewers were unable to receive its transmissions.

The station’s director, Dragan Kojadinovic, said on independent radio B2-92 that the authorities’ goal was to prevent people from watching coverage of an opposition rally in Belgrade.

Radio Kontakt

Shortly before midnight, a rocket-propelled grenade hit an apartment building in the Kosovo capital, Pristina. One of the building tenants was Radio Kontakt, Kosovo’s only multi-ethnic radio station. The station’s offices were damaged in the blast.

Staff at Radio Kontakt were in a meeting when the grenade hit. They were evacuated by United Nations police, and two staffers injured in the blast were taken to a local hospital, according to the Beta news agency. United Nations authorities then sealed the premises and placed Radio Kontakt’s editorial team under heavy police protection.

Radio Kontakt staffers said the grenade attack was the latest in a series of intimidating attacks by Albanians who objected to the station’s programming, which included broadcasts in three languages, Serbian, Albanian, and Turkish.

Beta news agency

The independent Beta news agency was fined 150,000 dinars (US$12,900), under Article 11 and Article 69 of the Serbian Information Law, for damaging the honor and reputation of Yugoslav information minister Goran Matic. The agency’s director, Radomir Draklic, and its chief editor, Ljubica Markovic, were each fined 80,000 dinars (US$6900).

The Belgrade city magistrate dismissed similar charges against the weekly magazine Blic for carrying the Beta report.

Matic filed the complaint over an April 12 news item in which Beta stated incorrectly that he was the owner of a provincial radio station. Matic also objected to the question “Goran Matic, who killed Slavko Curuvija?” contained in Beta’s coverage of an open letter to the minister from the Otpor student opposition movement. (Curuvija, the editor of the independent daily Dnevni Telegraf, was killed by unidentified gunmen in Belgrade on April 11, 1999.)

Beta admitted that the radio station was owned by Slobodan Milosevic’s Socialist Party, not by the information minister himself, but defense attorneys said they did not believe that Matic’s reputation had been damaged by the error.

Taro Konoshi, Yomiuri Shimbun

Konoshi, a reporter for the Japanese daily Yomiuri Shimbun, was fined 6000 dinars (US$520) for not having an entry stamp in his passport. At the court hearing, a Belgrade magistrate also ordered Konoshi to leave the country.

Konoshi had been arrested earlier that day while trying to board a London-bound flight at Belgrade airport. He had entered Yugoslavia from Montenegro on April 21, and a border guard forgot to stamp his passport.

Studio B Television

Magistrates in Pozarevac, the hometown of President Slobodan Milosevic, fined the Belgrade-based opposition television station Studio B in connection with a May 2 report about the alleged beating of three members of the Otpor student opposition movement by bodyguards of Marko Milosevic, the president’s son. The fight took place in front of a Pozarevac café called Pasaz.

Studio B was fined 300,000 dinars (US$25,860), while station editor Dragan Kojadinovic was fined an additional 150,000 dinars (US$12,900).

Studio B was sued under the Serbian Information Law by Dr. Vladimir Djuric, head of the Belgrade Emergency Health Center, who claimed the station had misreported the medical condition of one of the Otpor students, Radojko Lukovic.

Veselin Simonovic, Blic

The daily Blic and the weekly Vreme were both fined for reporting the alleged May 2 beating of three members of the Otpor student opposition group. Blic was fined 200,000 dinars (US$17,200), while the paper’s editor, Veselin Simonovic, was ordered to pay 80,000 dinars (US$6900).

Vreme was also fined 200,000 dinars (US $17,500), but the magazine’s editor, Dragoljub Zarkovic, escaped a fine because of a procedural error.

Both publications were sued by Bojan Tadic of Pozarevac, one of the men who allegedly beat the Otpor students. Tadic objected to the published statement that the fight broke out when he and several associates tried to persuade an Otpor member to renounce his membership in the organization.

Gillian Sandford, The Guardian
Natasa Bogovic, Danas
Bojan Toncic, Danas
Mile Veljkovic, Beta news agency and Blic
Bojan Erdeljanovic, Television Montenegro
Dragan Gmizic, Radio 021
Zarko Bogosavljevic, Radio 021
Jovan Djeric, Radio In
Marina Fratucan, Radio Free Europe
Sergej Babic, RTV Pancevo
Milos Maslaric, Studio B – Mladenovac
Jelena Petrovic, Studio B – Mladenovac
Dobrica Dabic, Studio B – Mladenovac
Veljko Popovic, Danas
Joel Finks, NRC Handelsblad
David Godfro, Het Parol

Over a dozen journalists and media workers were detained by Yugoslav authorities on May 8 and 9 in a wave of arrests of student activists, opposition politicians, and journalists across the country that followed unrest in the city of Pozarevac, hometown of President Slobodan Milosevic.

The disturbances in Pozarevac began after three members of the student opposition group Otpor (“Resistance”) were beaten up on May 1 by bodyguards of the president’s son, Marko Milosevic. Heavy fines were imposed on media outlets that reported the beating, according to local press reports. Opposition plans to hold a protest rally were called off for security reasons following the government’s crackdown.

Sandford, a British free-lancer working for the London daily The Guardian, was arrested on May 9 in Pozarevac along with Popovic of Danas, who was her translator at the time, according to CPJ sources in Belgrade. They were taken into police custody for an hour and a half and then ordered to leave the city.

Bogovic and Toncic of the independent Belgrade daily Danas were detained and taken to the police station in Zabari, near Pozarevac, on May 9. They were both released the next day after questioning.

Veljkovic, a correspondent for the independent Beta news agency and the independent daily Blic, was also detained in Pozarevac on May 9. His wife told the independent radio station B2-92 that after searching their home between midnight and 3 a.m., police seized 80 pages of written material and the hard drive from Veljkovic’s computer, and then arrested Veljkovic himself without explanation. The journalist was released at 10 p.m. later that day.

Finks, a correspondent for the Rotterdam daily NRC Handelsblad, and Godfro, correspondent for the Amsterdam daily Het Parol, were taken from their hotel to the police station and subsequently escorted out of Pozarevac.

A total of 25 people, including four journalists and a cameraman, were arrested in the Novi Sad capital of Vojvodina, where the journalists were covering an opposition demonstration in front of a government building in the city. The opposition radio station B2-92 reported that police detained Gmizic and Bogosavljevic, reporters from the Novi Sad station Radio 021, and Erdeljanovic, a Television Montenegro cameraman, along with Radio In journalist Djeric and Fratucan, a correspondent with Radio Free Europe. All the detainees were released late in the afternoon.

Police in Smederevo arrested Babic, a cameraman from RTV Pancevo, and an entire television crew from the Mladenovac office of Studio B, including Maslaric, the station’s editor, Petrovic, a reporter, as well as cameraman Dabic and driver Pavle Jesic.

MAY 17
Radio Index
Studio B

Just after 2 a.m., hundreds of police raided the offices of Studio B, Serbia’s largest opposition television station, in a 23-story building in central Belgrade that also housed three other independent media outlets: Radio B2-92, the student-run Radio Index, and the independent daily newspaper Blic.

The raid was carried out by plainclothes and uniformed police, some wearing black masks, who prevented staffers from all four media from entering their offices. In an interview with CPJ, a Blic editor said the police had no warrant and gave no reason for their actions.

In a later statement, Serbian authorities claimed to have raided Studio B in response to the station’s alleged calls for “the violent overthrow of the legitimate authorities.” The statement, which was signed by Serbian deputy prime ministers Vojislav Seselj and Milovan Bijic, did not mention the other media outlets.

After the raid, Studio B aired music videos and news from state television, according to the Beta news agency. The government also announced that it had dismissed the management of Studio B and appointed a new editor, Ljuboslav Aleksic. The station’s former director and editor, Dragan Kojadinovic, told reporters that the takeover amounted to “the beginning of a state of emergency,” and called on people to resist the government.

Studio B had been run by the Belgrade municipal government, which was controlled by the opposition Serbian Renewal Party (SPO) and largely reflected its views. The station’s closure sparked only modest protests in Belgrade, however, due to the SPO government’s low popularity.

On August 3, B2-92 staffers were allowed to return to the company’s premises on the 17th floor of the Beogradjanka business center in Belgrade. They found that US$50,000 worth of computers, communication, and sound production equipment had been removed, making it impossible to transmit from the old studio.

On August 7, Kojadinovic announced that the former staff of the station would begin broadcasting daily news via satellite on the OBN television network in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

B2-92 radio continued to broadcast via satellite and on the Internet after the raid. Although few Serbs have access to these new media, the station’s programming was picked up by local independent stations.

Blic‘s editorial staff moved temporarily to the offices of the opposition newspaper Danas, and continued to publish the newspaper. Radio Index was able to continue broadcasting after the raid. Its signal was heavily jammed until October 5, however, when it became clear that Milosevic had been unseated.

MAY 18
RTV Pancevo

Serbian police entered the Belgrade facilities of RTV Pancevo and dismantled the station’s radio transmitter, according to news reports and CPJ sources in Belgrade.

RTV Pancevo is an independent station based in the town of Pancevo, some 12 miles (20 kms) northeast of Belgrade, and had a substantial audience in the Serb capital. After the raid, RTV Pancevo’s news broadcasts were replaced by folk music and patriotic songs from World War II. CPJ sources also reported that RTV Pancevo’s television signal was jammed, interfering with reception in Belgrade.

On June 27, Belgrade’s First Municipal Court dismissed a petition from RTV Pancevo, an independent radio and television station based in the town of Pancevo, some 12 miles north-east of Belgrade, after one of its transmitters had been tampered with.

The court also declined to issue an injunction allowing the broadcaster to access and use this transmitter, which Serbian police had raided in mid-May. On July 4, the station filed a complaint against the court ruling.

MAY 25
Veseljko Koprivica, Danas

The independent Belgrade daily Danas and its publishing company were fined 570,000 dinars (US$49,100) after losing a suit filed by Deputy Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj over a story alleging that Seselj had plagiarized Vladimir I. Lenin’s “What Is to Be Done?”

Filed under the notorious Serbian Information Law, this was Seselj’s third lawsuit brought against Danas. Seselj sought the maximum penalty against the daily, and against individual members of the management of both the paper and its publisher, the Dan Graf Company.

A further fine of 150,000 dinars (US$12,900) was imposed on the paper’s managing editor, Veseljko Koprivica.

MAY 28
Milos Maslaric, TV Mladenovac

Eleven days after Serbian authorities banned TV Mladenovac, a subsidiary of the independent Belgrade station Studio B, police detained station director Maslaric in the early hours of the morning while they carried out an inventory of the station’s equipment.

The police forced Maslaric to the station against his will, broke the lock on the station door, and made a partial inventory of the equipment inside. They then changed the lock, sealed the building, and returned to the police station with Maslaric. The director refused to sign the police inventory of the station’s equipment, and was later released.

The station resumed broadcasting in early November, after the Federal Ministry for Telecommunications granted its license renewal application.


The Belgrade independent weekly NIN was fined for a June 1999 article about the health situation in Yugoslavia during the NATO air strikes.

Titled “Cry for the Unborn,” the article quoted a woman who had been advised to terminate her pregnancy because of high pollution levels in Belgrade at the time of the air raids. A Belgrade doctor whom the magazine claimed had recommended an abortion sued NIN for slander under the Servian Information Law.

Steven Niksic, NIN‘s editor-in-chief, claimed the fine was political, saying that the doctor had refused to allow the weekly to print a correction or publish a clarifying article. The NIN company was fined 150,000 dinars (US$12,500), while Niksic was personally fined 80,000 dinars (US$6600).


The United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) imposed an eight-day suspension on the ethnic Albanian daily Dita for publishing the name and address of a suspected Serbian war criminal. Meanwhile, UN officials drafted an emergency law to prevent local newspapers from publishing data that might jeopardize an individual’s safety.

During the eight-day ban, Dita‘s editorial offices were closed and guarded by UN police.

On April 27, Dita ran an article accusing a UN translator named Petar Topoljski of having been involved in last year’s pogroms as a member of a Serb paramilitary group. Dita published a photograph of Topoljski, as well as his address and work schedule. Two weeks later, on May 14, Topoljski’s body was found near Pristina. The translator had suffered multiple stab wounds.

On May 19, Dita published an open letter to UNMIK chief Bernard Kouchner, saying it would continue to publish the names of Serbs believed to be “involved in anti-Albanian activities.” The Kosovo Journalists’ Association said the decision to close Dita temporarily was “an arbitrary act which endangers press freedom.” UN officials responded that press freedom must be weighed against the need for peace in Kosovo.

On June 11, Dita filed criminal charges against UNMIK in a Pristina court. The paper demanded compensation of 30,000 DM (approximately US$15,000) for financial loss resulting from the temporary suspension. The charges also allege that Kouchner had damaged the paper’s reputation.

Dita resumed publication on June 13, reprinting the same article about Topoljski that had prompted the ban, and saying it would continue to publish similar articles.

On July 4, Dita published an article, accompanied by an identifiable photograph, that implicated two Kosovo Serbs in war crimes committed during last year’s NATO bombardment of Yugoslavia. The daily was subsequently fined 25,000 DM (about US$12,000) for violating the Temporary Print Regulations that UNMIK had introduced on June 17. On that day UNMIK also established the post of Temporary Media Commissioner (TMC) to implement a media regulatory system.

According to Temporary Media Commissioner Douglas Davidson, Dita breached the regulation prohibiting the publication of personal data that might endanger an individual’s safety. Under the new regulations, Dita was also required to give the accused Serbs a chance to clear themselves by allocating space for their statements. But in the same edition, Dita instead ran statements from several Albanians confirming the accusations. The Commissioner regarded this as unsatisfactory.

On July 27, Davidson ordered Dita to suspend operations immediately because the paper had failed to pay the fine.

On July 21, two other Albanian-language publications, the daily Rilindja and the weekly women’s magazine Kosovarja, also received warnings for similar violations of UN press regulations. Both publications later apologized for breaching the law.

As of the beginning of August, Dita was still publishing in defiance of Davidson’s order. Officials at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said they were powerless to make the paper comply.

While UNMIK and the TMC have defended the use of fines and temporary closures against media outlets, international press freedom groups, including the Reston, Virginia-based World Press Freedom Committee, have described these actions as heavy handed and counter-productive.

Glas Javnosti

Reporters and photographers from the opposition and independent Belgrade newspapers Blic, Danas, and Glas Javnosti, as well as from the news agencies Beta and FoNet, were banned from attending a session of the Serbian parliament.

Police at the building’s entrance told the Blic and Glas Javnosti journalists that their requests for accreditation had not been received on time, a charge they denied.

Meanwhile, Dragan Ljubojevic, president of the parliamentary administration committee and a member of the Serbian Radical Party, asked “representatives of the media of traitors” to leave a session of the committee. Ljubojevic singled out all the above media outlets.

Kikindske Novine

The Novi Sad District Court upheld an appeal by plaintiff Rajko Popovic, who argued that a fine imposed on the Vojvodina weekly Kikindske Novine in May was too low. Under the new ruling, the fine of 1,080,000 dinars (US$93,000) already imposed on the paper under the Public Information Act was increased by 100,000 dinars (US$8613).

At the time, Popovic, who had previously won several cases against Kikindske Novine, was editor of the state newspaper RTS Komuna. He also sat on the council of the ruling Socialist Party of Serbia.

On April 20, the weekly was fined 200,000 dinars (US$17,300) under the Serbian Information Law after being convicted on charges brought by Popovic. Dusan Francuski, director of the company Dom Omladine, which publishes Kikindske Novine, was fined 100,000 dinars (US$8600). Two members of the paper’s management were fined 50,000 dinars (US$4300) each.

Popovic sued the newspaper after it published a press release from the Independent Association of Vojvodina Journalists, titled “Stop Rajko Popovic.” The release characterized Popovic as “an unprecedented tell-tale,” adding that “journalism in Vojvodina has had enough of him.”

In the past, Kikindske Novine had already been ordered to pay fines totaling 1,080,000 dinars (US$93,100) in suits brought by Popovic.

On July 26, Kikinda magistrate Radojka Radovanovic dismissed new libel charges by Popovic against Kikindske Novine, filed after the paper published an article titled “Rajko’s Trip Paid for by Kikinda Citizens.” On this occasion, Popovic sought 150,000 dinars (US$ 12,900) in damages.

Popovic appealed the decision to a higher court, but the appeal was never heard owing to the court’s August recess, which was followed by the fall of Milosevic in early October.

Glas Javnosti

The Belgrade Higher Commercial Court ordered ABC Produkt, parent company of the daily Glas Javnosti and the weeklies Vreme and NIN, to vacate its premises on Vlajkoviceva Street.

Slavoljub Kacarevic, ABC’s director and the editor of Glas Javnosti, said the court dismissed ABC Produkt’s appeal against the eviction, which had been issued by a lower court. The company had not yet vacated the premises when the court’s deadline expired on June 27, as it takes a week to dismantle each of its eight main presses and at least two months to move the entire printing operation, according to Kacarevic.

Kacarevic added that he believed the authorities wanted ABC Produkt to leave empty-handed, given that plainclothes security agents prevented the company from moving presses and other equipment valued at 4.5 million dinars (US$375,000).

On June 29, the Belgrade Commercial Court and Higher Commercial Court both rejected ABC Produkt’s petition to disqualify the president of the Bankruptcy Court, Svetlana Slijepcevic-Lukic, the president of the Commercial Court, Milena Azerina, and the president of the Higher Commercial Court, Cedomir Prostran, from proceedings against the company on grounds of alleged judicial bias.

On July 4, after the Public Revenue Service tried to force the company into bankruptcy, the Belgrade Commercial Court held hearings to determine ABC Produkt’s solvency. But even though ABC Produkt’s bank accounts had been frozen for two months, the company paid all its fines, totaling 100,000 dinars (US$3300), under the Public Information Act.

Yugoslav commercial courts have been overwhelmed with overdue cases since the ouster of former president Slobodan Milosevic in early October, and the ABC Produkt case will not be heard before the end of March 2001. The company expects the charges to be dismissed as being politically motivated. At year’s end, ABC Produkt was operating normally.

Valentina Cukic, Radio Kontakt

An editor from Kosovo’s only multi-ethnic radio station was shot in the chest by unknown gunmen in Pristina.

Valentina Cukic, the editor of Serbian-language programming on Pristina’s Radio Kontakt, was shot at approximately 9 p.m. At the time of the attack, Cukic was wearing Kosovo Stabilization Force (KFOR) press credentials, which clearly identified her as a journalist.

Her companion Ljubomir Topalovic, a bank employee, was shot in the leg. KFOR and Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) representatives who happened to be on the scene administered first aid, and the victims were then rushed to a British military hospital.

Radio Kontakt had previously asked the UN police, KFOR, and the OSCE for protection in response to escalating threats and acts of violence against the station, which has controversially championed the idea that Kosovo should be a multi-ethnic community. The station, which broadcasts in Serbian, Bosnian, Albanian, Turkish, and Romany, was the target of a rocket-propelled grenade attack on April 17.

Cukic was released from the hospital on June 29. She has announced that she will continue to practice journalism, despite the dangers.

Glas Javnosti
Slavoljub Kacarevic, Glas Javnosti

The Belgrade daily Glas Javnosti and its director, Slavoljub Kacarevic, were fined a total of 280,000 dinars (US$23,333) under the Serbian Information Law. The Belgrade District Court ruling stemmed from a June 14 article that quoted a Kosovo Serb, Rada Trajkovic, stating that “the people know who betrayed Kosovo and ran away.”

Zoran Andjelkovic, a top official in Slobodan Milosevic’s Socialist Party and president of the Serbian government’s Interim Executive Council of Kosovo, sued the daily for this statement. Although his name was not mentioned in the article, Andjelkovic felt insulted nonetheless, and the city magistrate agreed with him.

Radio 106

A Kosovo radio station affiliated with the Serbian Orthodox Church was robbed during the night of June 19-20. Much of the station’s equipment was stolen.

Radio 106 transmitted from the village of Caglavica near the Kosovo capital, Pristina. The station carried news programs from the Voice of America, the BBC, and the Serbian opposition station B2-92.

The Serbian National Council of Kosovo and Metohija, which owns the station, issued a press release accusing supporters of President Slobodan Milosevic of orchestrating the robbery in an attempt to block objective information from reaching the remaining Serb population in that part of Kosovo.

The release added that Radio 106 had been under pressure from members of the ruling Socialist Party of Serbia for some time.

Hanibal Kovac, Radio Free Europe

Kovac, a Radio Free Europe correspondent from the town of Sabac, was assaulted at a local recreation center by three security guards who recognized him as the author of a news report about how local Roma were barred from the center’s facilities.

The guards dragged Kovac from the swimming pool, beat him in front of his wife and child, and threatened to kill him next time, according to the journalist’s own account. The recreation center was owned by Cedomir Vasiljevic, a senior Serbian Radical Party official and former Serbian government minister.

Boban Nikolic
TV Pirot

The Yugoslav media company Sloboda and its director, Boban Nikolic, were fined 22,000 dinars (US$1833) for operating the independent station TV Pirot without a license.

The charges were brought by the federal minister for telecommunications after March 16, when local police and federal officials broke into TV Pirot and removed broadcasting equipment. Pirot Municipal Court magistrate Olivera Todorovic imposed the fines on April 21.

Nikolic filed an appeal that included copies of license application materials submitted to the Telecommunications Ministry in 1998, when independent television and radio stations throughout the country were required to renew their broadcast licenses. The appeal was rejected the following month. TV Pirot was still broadcasting at year’s end, however, and expected the new regime to approve its license application.

Goran Milic, TV-5
Bojan Petrovic, TV Belleamie
Stevan Lazarevic, Narodne Novine

Three Nis-based independent journalists were detained while covering a protest rally in the city center against the earlier arrest of seven activists from the Otpor student opposition movement.

TV-5 cameraman Milic, TV Belleamie cameraman Petrovic, and Narodne Novine photographer Lazarevic were arrested while covering a march of some two hundred citizens to the Nis police station. All their cameras were confiscated.

The journalists were soon released, but the authorities retained their equipment, promising to return it “when the situation calms down.” The cameras were returned a few days later.

Radio B2-92

Journalists from the Belgrade independent daily Danas, the independent Radio B2-92, and several other members of the Association of Independent Electronic Media (ANEM) were barred from entering the federal parliament building to cover a parliamentary session, despite having submitted accreditation applications on time.

Milica Ivanovic, Blic, Beta news agency
Zoran Rakic, Danas

Ivanovic, correspondent for the Belgrade daily Blic and the independent Beta news agency in the town of Leskovac, was barred from attending the Leskovac Municipal Assembly. The Assembly’s secretary, Mile Stanisavljevic, explained that independent media correspondents were banned from covering the Assembly sessions. Local Danas correspondent Zoran Rakic was also denied entry to the Assembly building.

Glas Javnosti

A lack of available newsprint from the government-owned factory forced the Belgrade independent dailies Blic, Glas Javnosti, and Danas were forced to publish combined editions to cover the three days from Friday, July 7, through Sunday, July 9. The paper crisis also affected the independent weeklies Vreme and NIN, while pro-Milosevic papers continued to receive ample supplies.

Yugoslavia’s only domestic producer of newsprint, the state-run Matroz factory, sells newsprint to independent newspapers only after it supplies the requirements of state-owned newspapers, or if there is a surplus of paper. Matroz director Dragan Lazic later claimed that the shortage was due to technical problems at the factory.

Government authorities rejected the newspapers’ applications to import newsprint, claiming that there was enough newsprint available on the local market.

On July 16, Blic and Glas Javnosti suspended publication of their Sunday editions because of the newsprint shortage.

On October 7, Blic editor Veselin Simonovic announced that the newspaper had managed to obtain newsprint and would resume publishing its Sunday edition the next day.

Zivota Ciric, FoNet

Ciric, a photographer with the independent news agency FoNet, was assaulted by followers of the breakaway Montenegrin branch of the Orthodox Church in the village of Njegusi, near the town of Kotor on the Montenegrin coast. Ciric’s equipment was damaged in the attack.

After taking pictures of a Serbian Orthodox communion service in St. George’s Church, Ciric approached a gathering of Montenegrin Orthodox Church members near the Church of Our Lady. When he tried to photograph the gathering, bodyguards of Montenegrin Church head Miras Dedaic insulted and punched the photographer, breaking his camera.

Local police who escorted Ciric out of the crowd took the film from his broken camera and exposed it.

Beta news agency

Journalists from the daily newspapers Blic and Danas and from the Beta news agency were ejected from a meeting of the Legislative Board of the Serbian parliament. The head of the Parliament Information Service, Zoran Djumic, who asked the reporters to leave the meeting, said he was acting on the instructions of Serbian Radical Party legislators.

Vecernje Novosti

Zoran Zivkovic, mayor of Nis and vice-president of the opposition Democratic Party, brought criminal charges against the daily Vecernje Novosti and its acting editor, Dusan Cukic, under the Serbian Information Law.

The charges were based on a June 26 article titled “Shameful Flattery of the West: Strike at Schools,” in which the plaintiff claimed he was misquoted.

On July 18, Nis magistrate Ivan Milovanov ruled that the case was beyond his jurisdiction and referred it to the Belgrade City Magistrate, who had not yet heard the case when the Milosevic government fell in early October.

Since the new government planned to revoke the Serbian Information Law, all pending cases had been shelved at year’s end.

Beta news agency
Glas Javnosti

Journalists from the Beta news agency and from the daily newspapers Glas Javnosti, Blic, and Danas were barred from entering the parliament building to cover a regular session.

Radio Index

The Belgrade-based, student-run Radio Index reported that its frequencies were being jammed in Belgrade after 6:30 p.m. The station could still be heard outside the Serbian capital, because the signal was being rebroadcast from abroad. For the previous two months, Radio Index had been the only broadcaster in the city not under the government’s control.

On July 15, Radio Index’s Belgrade broadcast was replaced by a “shrill sound” between 7:30 and 8:00 p.m. Station director Nenad Cekic told Radio B2-92 that the source of the jamming was unknown. The station had the same problem the next night.

Radio Index was previously shut down on May 17, when the Serbian government took over Studio B, Serbia’s largest opposition broadcaster, which shared a building with Radio Index.

Radio Television Kragujevac

A five-member television crew from Radio Television Kragujevac, in the Serbian town of Kragujevac, was attacked at around 2 a.m. in the town center.

The crew had encountered about ten young men putting up Socialist Party posters. Armed with a baton, poles, and brushes, the men tried to take the cameraman’s tapes. In the ensuing brawl the cameraman’s hand was struck and another journalist’s face was slapped. The incident ended with the arrival of local police, at which point the assailants fled.

Radio Free Europe

Yugoslav information minister Goran Matic rejected Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL)’s request to open a bureau in Belgrade.

In a letter to Nenad Pejic, the director of RFE/RL’s South Slavic Service, Matic wrote that the Yugoslav government viewed RFE/RL as a propaganda arm of the NATO coalition against Yugoslavia, and that all RFE/RFL activities in the country were therefore illegal.

Matic added that the government would take “proper legal measures” against anyone in Yugoslavia who worked for RFE/RL without official permission. (RFE/RL is based in Prague and funded by the U.S. Congress.)

Local journalists working for the station asked Matic to receive an RFE/RL delegation and present it with evidence that the station was spreading propaganda. The journalists also announced that they would continue to work despite Matic’s ruling.

RFE/RL journalists in Serbia never ceased working. At year’s end, they were awaiting registration papers from the new information minister, Slobodan Orlic.

Dusan Djordjevic, Tanjug news agency

Djordjevic, editor in chief of the state-owned Tanjug news agency, was fined 60,000 dinars (US$5000) under the Serbian Information Law. The fine resulted from charges brought by two leaders of the opposition Alliance for Change, Vladan Batic and Zoran Djindjic. The two politicians were angered by articles published on June 9 that accused them of treason and betrayal of national interests.

Radio B2-92
Beta news agency
Glas Javnosti

Journalists from the independent station Radio B2-92, the Beta news agency, and the Belgrade dailies Blic, Glas Javnosti, and Danas were refused accreditation to cover sessions of the Yugoslav Federal Parliament. No reason was provided, but the building’s security guards alleged that the order came from the parliamentary leadership.

Miroslav Filipovic, Danas, Institute for War and Peace Reporting, Agence France-Presse

A military court in the southern Serb city of Nis sentenced Filipovic, 49, to seven years in prison for espionage and spreading false news. Filipovic was convicted of divulging military material to foreign organizations, especially the Institute for War and Peace Reporting in London and Agence France-Presse in Paris.

The verdict and sentence against the journalist were pronounced by the presiding judge, Col. Radenko Miladinovic, who said, “It was established beyond any doubt that Filipovic collected, processed and sent military information, described as military secrets, to foreign organizations, which means that he engaged in espionage.”

Judge Miladinovic added that Filipovic had written about alleged Yugoslav army atrocities against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo during 1999 NATO air strikes in Yugoslavia, and that he had described Yugoslav military strategy as “the tactics of killing and burning.”

Filipovic was formally charged with espionage under Article 128 of the Yugoslav Criminal Code, as well as with spreading false information under Article 218 of the Serbian Criminal Code

The journalist was arrested on May 8, freed on May 12, and then rearrested 10 days later. Under Serbian law, Filipovic was to remain in custody while the Supreme Military Court in Belgrade heard his appeal, as his sentence exceeded five years in prison.

On August 15, Filipovic was transferred from a military prison in Nis to the city’s military hospital. He was admitted to the hospital with significant arrhythmia of unknown origin. This was the second time in 10 days that Filipovic had been hospitalized with heart trouble. He also suffered from skin allergies and flu accompanied by high fever.

In late August, Filipovic’s defense lawyer and the Nis military prosecutor separately appealed the journalist’s prison sentence. Filipovic’s attorney argued that the evidence did not support the charges against Filipovic, and asked the Supreme Military Court in Belgrade to annul the sentence.

The prosecutor demanded that the sentence be increased by at least two years. The court announced it would consider the appeals during the first week of September.

On October 9, Filipovic was pardoned by newly elected Yugoslav president Vojislav Kostunica. The next day, the journalist was released after the chief judge of the Supreme Military Court, Col. Milan Ranic, voided the conviction on the grounds of “procedural abuses during the investigation.”

Filipovic’s family, however, continued to insist that his conviction should be overturned in a court of law in order to clear his name. The Supreme Military Court ordered a retrial, but no trial date had been set by year’s end.



A Belgrade city magistrate fined the independent daily Danas a total of 340,000 dinars (US$7800) under the Serbian Information Law. The charges were brought by Deputy Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj, leader of the ultranationalist Serbian Radical Party, in retaliation for an August 4 Danas article alleging that Seselj had paid two million DM (US$925,000) to print eight million election campaign posters. This information was originally reported by the news agency FoNet.

The fines were apportioned among the newspaper’s parent company, Dan Graf, its publisher, Dusan Mitrovic, and its editor, Veseljko Koprivica. All three parties were ordered to pay within 24 hours or face prison sentences. They complied.

This was the third time that Seselj had sued Danas under the 1998 Serbian Information Law, under which media outlets can be fined for publishing statements that are deemed to be insulting or false.

Radio S

United Nations police closed the Serbian-language station Radio S, based in the northern Kosovo town of Zvecan, after it refused to shut down voluntarily, as had been demanded two days earlier by Simon Haselock, the temporary UN media commissioner in Kosovo.

According to Haselock, Radio S had submitted an incomplete license application earlier in the year and did not respond to his request that it resubmit the application by July 5.

Radio S editor Radovan Gligovic claimed his station was shut down for refusing to air UN messages promoting participation in the October municipal elections, which most Serbs were boycotting. The station was still closed at year’s end.

Zoran Lukovic, Dnevni Telegraf

Lukovic, a former reporter for the defunct Belgrade daily Dnevni Telegraf, was jailed on an old charge of spreading false information, local and international media reported. The journalist was detained on August 15 when he went to a police station to register his car, his wife said. He was then transferred to Padinska Skela prison near Belgrade, where he was to serve his five-month sentence.

On March 8, 1999, Lukovic, the paper’s owner and publisher Slavko Curuvija, and another reporter, Srdjan Jankovic, were convicted of spreading false information under Article 218 of the Serbian Criminal Code, and sentenced to five months in prison. A month later, Curuvija was killed by two unknown gunmen in Belgrade.

The charges arose from a December 5, 1998, Dnevni Telegraf article that linked prominent politician Milovan Bojic, at that time Serbian deputy prime minister and director of the Dedinje Institute for Cardiovascular Diseases, to the murder of Aleksandar Popovic, one of the institute’s physicians.

After his conviction, Lukovic was twice granted postponements of his prison sentence, his wife Ivana told the local Beta news agency. On January 23, 2000, Lukovic filed another petition to postpone the sentence, but received no response from the authorities.

Lukovic was released on October 21, having served two months and six days of his five-month sentence, after Serbian president Milan Milutinovic pardoned him.

Radio Jasenica

The signal of independent Radio Jasenica in the small Serbian town of Smederevska Polanka, southeast of Belgrade, was jammed when the state-run Radio Belgrade began broadcasting on the same frequency, according to Radio Jasenica director Zoran Stanosevic.

Two days after the broadcast disruptions began, the station’s management filed a complaint with police and the Ministry of Telecommunications.

Mara Babovic, Pobjeda

Yugoslav army troops arrested a team from the Montenegrin daily Pobjeda as they were covering a protest rally outside the Montenegrin town of Pljevlje.

The newspaper’s deputy editor, Radomir Tomovic, told the Beta news agency that the soldiers arrested photographer Babovic and her driver for taking pictures of military barricades erected on the border with Republika Srpska the Serb-controlled area of Bosnia-Herzegovina. The two were held at the local army headquarters for four hours, and then released. They were not allowed to telephone Pobjeda editors during their detention.

Novi Sad cable television stations

Yugoslav information minister Goran Matic ordered cable network stations in Novi Sad to stop broadcasting the news programs of five non-Serbian television stations: RTV Crna Gora (Montenegro), HRT 2 and HRT 3 (Croatia), OBN (Bosnia-Herzegovina), and TV Duna (Hungary).

The order was issued under the Serbian Information Law, which prohibits Serbian media from broadcasting, in whole or in part, programs produced by foreign media.

On September 5, Minja Bolesnikov, a spokesman for the Novi Sad branch of the Yugoslav United Left, a member of the ruling coalition, announced at a press conference that although RTV Crna Gora was not a foreign station, it had been banned from the city’s cable distribution system because it was broadcasting via an American satellite.

Katarina Pecovic, TV Montenegro
Dobrivoje Dejanovic, TV Montenegro

Katarina Pecovic, a reporter for TV Montenegro, and Dobrivoje Dejanovic, a cameraman with the station, were attacked by a mob in front of a supermarket in Novi Sad.

Pecovic later told the Beta news agency that she and Dejanovic were shooting a story about oil and sugar shortages in Serbian supermarkets when several people began shouting insults and then attacked them. Pecovic added that some members of the crowd came to the crew’s rescue and others begged them to leave the scene to avoid further conflict.

TV Rosulja


The private station TV Rosulja, based in the southern Serbian town of Vlasotince, stopped broadcasting after the local planning department ordered it to vacate its premises, a one-room apartment in the downtown area.

Planning officials claimed that TV Rosulja had been occupying the apartment illegally, but independent Serbian media reported that the move was designed to silence the station because of frequent guest appearances by local opposition leaders.

TV Rosulja had been on the air since 1999, when station owner Miloslav Radicevic refused a buyout offer from local leaders of the ruling Socialist Party. Its signal covered the Vlasotince region and a part of Leskovac municipality.

Marjan Melonasi, RTV Kosovo

Melonasi, a journalist with the Serbian department of RTV Kosovo, disappeared in Pristina. He was last seen leaving his office at around 2 p.m.

Colleagues and friends suspected that Melonasi had been abducted for speaking Serbian publicly in Pristina, the capitol of the Yugoslav province of Kosovo. (Melonasi is of mixed Serbian and Albanian origin.)

On December 19, a United Nations police spokesman informed CPJ that no new evidence had emerged in the investigation into Melonasi’s disappearance.

Shefki Popova, Rilindja

Popov, a well-known ethnic Albanian journalist, was shot and killed in his hometown of Vucitrn, 12 miles (20 kilometers) northwest of Pristina, according to the United Nations police Web site ( Two unidentified men were seen running away after the shooting, which occurred near the town’s municipal office building at 11:25 p.m.

Popova, 50, died shortly after arriving at a nearby hospital run by United Arab Emirates peacekeeping forces. It was unclear whether Popova’s death related to his work at the Albanian-language daily Rilindja. Over the past 26 years, Popova had contributed numerous articles to Rilindja and had also reported for the newspaper’s radio station.

A colleague of Popova’s at Rilindja told CPJ that Popova had written about war crimes committed in Kosovo by ethnic Serbs and that he believed some of the Serbs involved may have killed him in retribution.

However, other sources pointed out that Popova was also active in local politics. At the time of his death, he was running in municipal elections in Vucitrn as a candidate of the Social Democratic Party of Kosovo (PSDK).

Cooperation with the international community is also a very sensitive issue within the ethnic Albanian community. Some local sources pointed out that Popova had been involved in setting up meetings between international officials and nongovernmental organizations in Vucitrn.

CPJ released a news alert about the murder on September 14.

Vanja Mekterovic, Reporter
Marko Poplasen, Reporter

Reporter Mekterovic and photographer Poplasen of the weekly Reporter, published in Banja Luka, Bosnia, were arrested by police in Novi Sad as they tried to interview construction workers on the Varadinska Duga Bridge.

According to editors at Reporter, Mekterovic and Poplasen were inquiring about progress on the construction of the bridge when they were detained and taken to a local police station. Police accused the two journalists of “trying to make a story without the permission of the Federal Information Agency,” according to Serbian independent media.

The two journalists, both Yugoslav citizens, were also told that they needed special permits to work for foreign media. They were released an hour and a half later

Bojan Bozovic, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

Two Kosovo Albanians tried to abduct Bojan Bozovic, a local ethnic Serb reporter for the U.S.-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), according to a statement by a Kosovo Serb group.

The two men stopped Bozovic’s car while he was driving between the provincial capital, Pristina, and the northern town of Kosovska Mitrovic, and tried to force him out of the vehicle. The kidnapping attempt was foiled by a United Nations police patrol. The UN police then escorted Bozovic to Serb-dominate northern Kosovo.

The Serb National Council, an organization of Kosovo Serbs, claimed that the attack was motivated by Bozovic’s RFE/RL report about an argument between ethnic Albanian leader Hashim Thaci and Rada Trajkovic, the Serb representative in the UN-supervised Kosovo government. The argument concerned Trajkovic’s participation in an investigation of atrocities committed during the Kosovo conflict that could have implicated Thaci, according to The Associated Press.

Independent media

Independent media were barred from covering an election rally in the Serbian town of Kragujevac, where Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic spoke.

State media correspondents were permitted to cover the event, but security guards and special police prevented all independent journalists from entering the factory grounds. Such selective bans were a common feature of Milosevic’s election campaign.

TV Pirot

Authorities in the town of Pirot cut off power to the independent station TV Pirot’s transmitter, making it impossible for people in the neighboring town of Dimitrovgrad to watch the private station’s programs (reception in Pirot was normal).

TV Pirot editor Dragica Pavlov Krstic told the Beta news agency that his station was the only one in the region not owned by the government and that the power cut was politically motivated.

TV Montenegro

Yugoslav soldiers prevented a three-man TV Montenegro crew from covering an election rally of the ruling Socialist National Party that was addressed by President Slobodan Milosevic. The soldiers confiscated the crew’s cameras and tapes, claiming that the journalists could not film the rally because it was taking place at a military facility.

TV Montenegro later told the Bosnian news agency Onasa that the crew had already obtained official permission to cover the rally, which was held near an airport serving the Montenegrin town of Berane. The army later insisted that the journalists had trespassed on military property, adding that the confiscated equipment would be returned to them after police inspection.

FoNET News Agency
Beta news agency

Reporters from independent media, including the Belgrade dailies Danas and Blic and the the FoNET and Beta news agencies, were barred from a press conference given by Slobodan Milosevic’s Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) shortly after the party’s crushing election defeat.

According to a Danas reporter who tried unsuccessfully to attend the press conference, guards at the entrance of SPS headquarters had been given a list of proscribed media.

Interna TV

Accompanied by several activists from the ruling Socialist Party of Serbia, police in the eastern Serbian city of Zajecar confiscated broadcasting equipment from the private cable television station Interna TV, eyewitnesses told the Beta news agency.

Interna TV broadcast exclusively entertainment programs, but the equipment was seized because the government was afraid that the station might start airing information programs produced by independent news organizations, several local residents told Beta.

Mladen Bijelic, Radio Yugoslavia
Draginja Bozinovic, Radio Yugoslavia
Jugoslava Siroka, Radio Yugoslavia
Vuksan Dabetic, Radio Yugoslavia
Nenad Tabor, Radio Yugoslavia
Vlada Pavlovic, Radio Yugoslavia
Mica Dadic, Radio Yugoslavia

Security officers at Radio Yugoslavia (RJ) confiscated the press card of the station’s business editor, Mladen Bijelic, and ejected him from the premises because he had signed a staff petition calling for changes in the station’s pro-Milosevic editorial policy.

Eight employees of the station, including Bijelic, urged their colleagues to stop acting as mouthpieces for the Milosevic regime. At the time, Radio Yugoslavia was headed by Federal Minister for Telecommunications Ivan Markovic, a senior official of the Yugoslav United Left party, which was a coalition partner in the Milosevic government.

That same day, RJ journalists Draginja Bozinovic, Jugoslava Siroka, and Vuksan Dabetic, signatories to the same petition, were also ejected from the station’s premises. Security officers used force to push Siroka and Dabetic out, twisting their arms behind their backs. The two journalists had been told earlier in the day that they were barred from entering the building, but were not shown any documentary proof to this effect.

Russian desk editor Nenad Tabor, French desk editor Vlada Pavlovic, and German desk editor Mica Dadic were also relieved of their duties after signing the petition.

Milos Antic, Nedeljni Telegraf

Three plainclothes police officers arrested Milos Antic, deputy editor of the private Belgrade weekly Nedeljni Telegraf, according to the Beta news agency. The officers did not provide a warrant or explain why the journalist was being detained.

Antic was interrogated for two hours and then released. He later told Beta that the police had questioned him about the sources for articles in two recent editions of Nedeljni Telegraf, claiming they were collecting the information on behalf of a prosecutor investigating former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic. Both articles dealt with Milosevic’s efforts to stamp out the popular rebellion that eventually drove him from office by allegedly ordering Yugoslav Army general Nebojsa Pavkovic to crack down on pro-democracy protesters during the night of October 5-6.

Antic said that he had declined to reveal his sources.

TV Novi Sad

TV Novi Sad, which is run by the Novi Sad municipal government, received an anonymous telephone bomb threat after the guest appearance of Natasa Kandic, director of the Belgrade Humanitarian Law Center, on the Friday, November 10 broadcast of its program “Signal.”

The police quickly secured all entrances to the building. The station later reported having received several threatening and insulting calls during the Friday program and the next day.

Blic News

The publishers of the independent weekly Blic News were forced to suspend publication due to a newsprint shortage.

The state-run Martoz company, Serbia’s only newsprint factory, had been unable to satisfy market demand for the previous four months. The shortage was artificially created by the Milosevic government, which refused to allow independent publishers to import foreign newsprint but made sure that state-run publications had an adequate supply.