SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO


Europe and Central Asia cases 2003: Country List    I   Europe and Central Asia Regional Home Page
How CPJ investigates and classifies attacks on the press



MARCH 3, 2003

Vukasin Obradovic, Novine Vranjske
Goran Antic, Novine Vranjske
THREATENED, LEGAL ACTION
Novine Vranjske
THREATENED

Obradovic, the owner and editor-in-chief of the Vranje-based weekly Novine Vranjske, and Antic, a reporter with the publication, were threatened in retaliation for reporting allegations of sexual abuse made against Serbian Orthodox Bishop Pahomije. The bishop's secular name is Tomislav Gacic.

In early January, Novine Vranjske began publishing a series of articles about five boys from the southern city of Vranjske who have accused Bishop Pahomije of sexual abuse over a period of several years and are pressing criminal charges against him. Bishop Pahomije is the leader of the local Serbian Orthodox Diocese in Vranjske. He has claimed that the charges are false and says they are part of an ethnic Albanian "plot" against him. He has also accused the paper of cooperating with ethnic Albanians.

Lawyers representing Bishop Pahomije filed criminal libel charges against Obradovic and Antic on February 13, the Belgrade daily Politika reported. According to Obradovic, a court hearing was scheduled for March 23.

Obradovic told CPJ on March 4 that he began receiving anonymous threats by telephone after Antic's articles about the bishop's case appeared in Novine Vranjske. He said that he initially chose not to report the threats to the police because such harassment is relatively common in Serbia. But the threats became more serious. On March 3, an anonymous letter arrived at the Novine Vranjske office threatening to kill Obradovic, his family, Antic, and the newspaper's staff in retaliation for the publication's coverage of the case.

CPJ has obtained a copy of the anonymous letter. It is addressed to Novine Vranjske's staff and Obradovic and signed by two unknown organizations, the Serbian Liberation Movement and the Serbian Liberation Front. The letter accuses Obradovic of being a "traitor" and a "homosexual" and says that the editor-in-chief and his family "are sentenced to death," that "the office of Novine Vranjske will be demolished and burnt down," and that he "will be liquidated and cannot escape." The letter also states that Obradovic is being paid by ethnic Albanian separatists to discredit the Serbian Orthodox Church and warns him to stop reporting on the allegations of sexual abuse made against Bishop Pahomije.

Obradovic told CPJ that the letter is "a warning to me, my family, my staff, as well as to the five boys and their families, to withdraw the charges of sexual abuse against Bishop Pahomije or face serious consequences." Obradovic is taking the death threat seriously and expressed "deep concern" about the safety of his family. The Serbian Orthodox Church has not made a formal statement or condemned the threatening letter, Obradovic said.

Church officials at both the Serbian Orthodox Eparchy in Vranjske and the Serbian Orthodox Patriarchy in Belgrade refused to comment on the criminal libel charges against Obradovic and Antic, or on the death threats against Antic, Obradovic, his family, and Novine Vranjske staff.


MARCH 12, 2003

All media
LEGAL ACTION

Natasa Micic, president of the Serbian National Assembly and then acting president of Serbia, declared a state of emergency after Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic was fatally shot by a sniper in the center of Serbia's capital, Belgrade, placing restrictions on the media.

"I am asking the Army of Serbia and Montenegro, security forces, the judiciary, all media and political parties to unite around these goals [to arrest the assassins]," Micic said in a statement, according to Radio Belgrade. "These measures will remain in force ... until the assassins have been arrested."

Article 9 of Micic's executive order stated that, "Public information, distribution of press and other information about the reasons for the declaration of the state of emergency is prohibited, excluding carrying the official statements of competent government agencies." The order required the Ministry of Culture to enforce the media restrictions in cooperation with the Interior Ministry but did not specify sanctions for outlets that violated Article 9.

Deputy Prime Minister Zarko Korac met with the editors-in-chief of Belgrade-based media outlets to provide recommendations on news reporting during the state of emergency, the Belgrade-based Association for Independent Electronic Media (ANEM) reported.

Korac asked editors to report only on official announcements from government agencies, representatives of political parties, or press conferences and requested that the media refrain from reporting on "the reactions of those who will be arrested, their lawyers, and analysts who could complicate the arrests," according to ANEM.

CPJ sources in Belgrade said the media restrictions were not as broad as they sounded and appeared aimed at journalists and media outlets linked to Djindjic's alleged assassins—former special operations commander Milorad Lukovic and members of the powerful Zemun mafia clan.

The state of emergency was lifted on April 22.


MARCH 16, 2003

Identitet
HARASSED, LEGAL ACTION, CENSORED

The Ministry of Culture and Information closed the Belgrade weekly Identitet and fined its senior staff. Police and government officials arrived at the magazine's office in the evening and sealed the premises to prevent the publication of the March 18 edition, according to local press reports. The ministry fined the magazine's publisher 500,000 dinars (US$8,300), while the director, editor-in-chief, and deputy editor were each fined 100,000 dinars (US$1,600).

Government officials believe that the magazine is linked to the alleged assassins of Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic, who was killed on March 12, and has been inciting violence. Authorities pointed to the magazine's cover story that ran the day before Djindjic was murdered with the headline: "Djindjic a Target for Freelance Assassin—Murder Ordered by Serbs from the Hague."

On March 12, Natasa Micic, president of the Serbian National Assembly and then acting president of Serbia, had declared a state of emergency after a sniper fatally shot Djindjic in the center of Belgrade. Article 9 of Micic's executive order, which established the state of emergency, stated that, "Public information, distribution of press and other information about the reasons for the declaration of the state of emergency is prohibited, excluding carrying the official statements of competent government agencies." The order required the Ministry of Culture and Public Information to enforce the media restrictions in cooperation with the Interior Ministry but did not specify sanctions for media outlets that violated Article 9.

According to local press reports, Deputy Prime Minister Zarko Korac and several other senior government officials met with the editors-in-chief of Belgrade-based media outlets on the evening of March 12 to provide recommendations on how news should be reported during the state of emergency. The authorities asked editors to report only on official announcements from government agencies, representatives of political parties, or press conferences. The government also requested that the media refrain from reporting on "the reactions of those who will be arrested, their lawyers, and analysts who could complicate the arrests," said the Belgrade-based Association for Independent Electronic Media.

Minister of Culture and Public Information Branislav Lecic and several senior officials held a second meeting with editors on March 17 to inform them that the government had tolerated a number of violations of the media restrictions but would stand for no more, according to local press reports. The government also announced that it would establish a special switchboard for editors to call and check the accuracy of information prior to publication or broadcast.

That same day, the government published an edition of the Official Gazette of the Republic of Serbia containing an executive decree signed by Micic outlining sanctions for media outlets that violated state-of-emergency regulations, said local press reports. Media companies that violated the regulations faced temporary closure and fines of 50,000 to 500,000 dinars (US$830 to US$8,300), and individuals could be fined from 10,000 to 100,000 dinars (US$160 to US$1,600). There was no procedure to appeal decisions or sanctions, Belgrade's independent Radio B92 reported. The state of emergency was lifted on April 22.

MARCH 17, 2003

RTV Mars
LEGAL ACTION

The Ministry of Culture and Information shuttered the independent television station RTV Mars, which is based in the central Serbian city of Valjevo, for broadcasting films during the three-day mourning period following the assassination of Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic, who was killed on March 12. The station was fined 500,000 dinars (US$8,300), and the station's director was fined 100,000 dinars (US$1,600).

On March 12, Natasa Micic, president of the Serbian National Assembly and then acting president of Serbia, had declared a state of emergency after a sniper fatally shot Djindjic in the center of Belgrade. Article 9 of Micic's executive order, which established the state of emergency, stated that, "Public information, distribution of press and other information about the reasons for the declaration of the state of emergency is prohibited, excluding carrying the official statements of competent government agencies." The order required the Ministry of Culture and Public Information to enforce the media restrictions in cooperation with the Interior Ministry but did not specify sanctions for media outlets that violated Article 9.

According to local press reports, Deputy Prime Minister Zarko Korac and several other senior government officials met with the editors-in-chief of Belgrade-based media outlets on the evening of March 12 to provide recommendations on how news should be reported during the state of emergency. The authorities asked editors to report only on official announcements from government agencies, representatives of political parties, or press conferences. The government also requested that the media refrain from reporting on "the reactions of those who will be arrested, their lawyers, and analysts who could complicate the arrests," said the Belgrade-based Association for Independent Electronic Media.

Minister of Culture and Public Information Branislav Lecic and several senior officials held a second meeting with editors on March 17 to inform them that the government had tolerated a number of violations of the media restrictions but would stand for no more, according to local press reports. The government also announced that it would establish a special switchboard for editors to call and check the accuracy of information prior to publication or broadcast.

That same day, the government published an edition of the Official Gazette of the Republic of Serbia containing an executive decree signed by Micic outlining sanctions for media outlets that violated state-of-emergency regulations, said local press reports. Media companies that violated the regulations faced temporary closure and fines of 50,000 to 500,000 dinars (US$830 to US$8,300), and individuals could be fined from 10,000 to 100,000 dinars (US$160 to US$1,600). There was no procedure to appeal decisions or sanctions, Belgrade's independent Radio B92 reported. The state of emergency was lifted on April 22.



MARCH 18, 2003

Dan
LEGAL ACTION, CENSORED

The Ministry of Information and Culture banned the distribution of Dan, a daily based in Montenegro's capital, Podgorica, and fined its distributor 200,000 dinars (US$3,200) and its director 30,000 dinars (US$500) because the March 17 edition questioned the government's decision to declare a state of emergency.

On March 12, Natasa Micic, president of the Serbian National Assembly and then acting president of Serbia, had declared a state of emergency after a sniper fatally shot Djindjic in the center of Belgrade. Article 9 of Micic's executive order, which established the state of emergency, stated that, "Public information, distribution of press and other information about the reasons for the declaration of the state of emergency is prohibited, excluding carrying the official statements of competent government agencies." The order required the Ministry of Culture and Public Information to enforce the media restrictions in cooperation with the Interior Ministry but did not specify sanctions for media outlets that violated Article 9.

According to local press reports, Deputy Prime Minister Zarko Korac and several other senior government officials met with the editors-in-chief of Belgrade-based media outlets on the evening of March 12 to provide recommendations on how news should be reported during the state of emergency. The authorities asked editors to report only on official announcements from government agencies, representatives of political parties, or press conferences. The government also requested that the media refrain from reporting on "the reactions of those who will be arrested, their lawyers, and analysts who could complicate the arrests," said the Belgrade-based Association for Independent Electronic Media.

Minister of Culture and Public Information Branislav Lecic and several senior officials held a second meeting with editors on March 17 to inform them that the government had tolerated a number of violations of the media restrictions but would stand for no more, according to local press reports. The government also announced that it would establish a special switchboard for editors to call and check the accuracy of information prior to publication or broadcast.

That same day, the government published an edition of the Official Gazette of the Republic of Serbia containing an executive decree signed by Micic outlining sanctions for media outlets that violated state-of-emergency regulations, said local press reports. Media companies that violated the regulations faced temporary closure and fines of 50,000 to 500,000 dinars (US$830 to US$8,300), and individuals could be fined from 10,000 to 100,000 dinars (US$160 to US$1,600). There was no procedure to appeal decisions or sanctions, Belgrade's independent Radio B92 reported. The state of emergency was lifted on April 22.

Nacional
LEGAL ACTION, CENSORED

The Ministry of Culture and Information banned the printing and distribution of the Belgrade daily Nacional for publishing "several articles on the reasons for the introduction of a state of emergency and the implementation of special measures" and, officials claim, because the paper is linked to some of the alleged assassins of Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic, who was killed on March 12. The ministry also fined Nacional's publisher 500,000 dinars (US$8,300) and its director and editor-in-chief 100,000 dinars (US$1,600) each.

On March 12, Natasa Micic, president of the Serbian National Assembly and then acting president of Serbia, had declared a state of emergency after a sniper fatally shot Djindjic in the center of Belgrade. Article 9 of Micic's executive order, which established the state of emergency, stated that, "Public information, distribution of press and other information about the reasons for the declaration of the state of emergency is prohibited, excluding carrying the official statements of competent government agencies." The order required the Ministry of Culture and Public Information to enforce the media restrictions in cooperation with the Interior Ministry but did not specify sanctions for media outlets that violated Article 9.

According to local press reports, Deputy Prime Minister Zarko Korac and several other senior government officials met with the editors-in-chief of Belgrade-based media outlets on the evening of March 12 to provide recommendations on how news should be reported during the state of emergency. The authorities asked editors to report only on official announcements from government agencies, representatives of political parties, or press conferences. The government also requested that the media refrain from reporting on "the reactions of those who will be arrested, their lawyers, and analysts who could complicate the arrests," said the Belgrade-based Association for Independent Electronic Media.

Minister of Culture and Public Information Branislav Lecic and several senior officials held a second meeting with editors on March 17 to inform them that the government had tolerated a number of violations of the media restrictions but would stand for no more, according to local press reports. The government also announced that it would establish a special switchboard for editors to call and check the accuracy of information prior to publication or broadcast.

That same day, the government published an edition of the Official Gazette of the Republic of Serbia containing an executive decree signed by Micic outlining sanctions for media outlets that violated state-of-emergency regulations, said local press reports. Media companies that violated the regulations faced temporary closure and fines of 50,000 to 500,000 dinars (US$830 to US$8,300), and individuals could be fined from 10,000 to 100,000 dinars (US$160 to US$1,600). There was no procedure to appeal decisions or sanctions, Belgrade's independent Radio B92 reported. The state of emergency was lifted on April 22.


Vecernje Novosti
LEGAL ACTION, CENSORED

The Ministry of Information and Culture banned distribution of that day's edition of the independent Belgrade daily Vecernje Novosti for publishing an article titled "Small Village, Big Rat," which praised one of the individuals arrested for alleged involvement in the assassination of Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic, who was killed on March 12.

On March 12, Natasa Micic, president of the Serbian National Assembly and then acting president of Serbia, had declared a state of emergency after a sniper fatally shot Djindjic in the center of Belgrade. Article 9 of Micic's executive order, which established the state of emergency, stated that, "Public information, distribution of press and other information about the reasons for the declaration of the state of emergency is prohibited, excluding carrying the official statements of competent government agencies." The order required the Ministry of Culture and Public Information to enforce the media restrictions in cooperation with the Interior Ministry but did not specify sanctions for media outlets that violated Article 9.

According to local press reports, Deputy Prime Minister Zarko Korac and several other senior government officials met with the editors-in-chief of Belgrade-based media outlets on the evening of March 12 to provide recommendations on how news should be reported during the state of emergency. The authorities asked editors to report only on official announcements from government agencies, representatives of political parties, or press conferences. The government also requested that the media refrain from reporting on "the reactions of those who will be arrested, their lawyers, and analysts who could complicate the arrests," said the Belgrade-based Association for Independent Electronic Media.

Minister of Culture and Public Information Branislav Lecic and several senior officials held a second meeting with editors on March 17 to inform them that the government had tolerated a number of violations of the media restrictions but would stand for no more, according to local press reports. The government also announced that it would establish a special switchboard for editors to call and check the accuracy of information prior to publication or broadcast.

That same day, the government published an edition of the Official Gazette of the Republic of Serbia containing an executive decree signed by Micic outlining sanctions for media outlets that violated state-of-emergency regulations, said local press reports. Media companies that violated the regulations faced temporary closure and fines of 50,000 to 500,000 dinars (US$830 to US$8,300), and individuals could be fined from 10,000 to 100,000 dinars (US$160 to US$1,600). There was no procedure to appeal decisions or sanctions, Belgrade's independent Radio B92 reported. The state of emergency was lifted on April 22.