Former RTS director convicted for failing to protect employees in NATO bombing

New York, June 24, 2002—Dragoljub Milanovic, the former director of the state broadcaster Radio Television Serbia (RTS), was sentenced to 10 years in prison on Friday for failing to protect 16 RTS employees killed by a NATO missile in April 1999, said Serbian and international press reports.

A Belgrade district court found Milanovic guilty of causing “grave danger to public security” for failing to evacuate employees from the RTS building in Belgrade during NATO air strikes.

Milanovic was a senior member of the ruling Socialist Party of Serbia during the 1999 NATO war against Yugoslavia and ran the state broadcaster as a mouthpiece of former President Slobodan Milosevic.

After the bombing, Milanovic was accused of intentionally placing low-level RTS employees at risk in an effort to increase the number of civilian casualties and discredit NATO.

Milanovic’s lawyer said he would appeal the case to the supreme court, and a judge ordered the defendant to remain in Belgrade until the appeal is considered.

NATO conducted air strikes against targets throughout Yugoslavia during the spring of 1999 after Serbian authorities escalated their repression of ethnic Albanians in the southern-Serbian province of Kosovo.

NATO began its bombing campaign on March 24 and repeatedly condemned RTS as a key component of Milosevic’s “war machine.” NATO then bombed the station’s central studio in Belgrade on April 23.

Sixteen RTS employees—mostly junior technical and support staff—were killed by a U.S. cruise missile that struck the building.

CPJ condemned the strike as an action that jeopardized the safety of all journalists covering the war and potentially weakened the protections that journalists enjoy as civilians under international humanitarian law.