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Crackdown on the News Media in Serbia and Montenegro in 1996

CPJ Documents Press Freedom Abuses in Serbia in 1996

Dec. 5, 1996: Radio B-92 is permitted again to broadcast after widespread international outcry and condemnation of President Slobodan Milosevic's attempts to silence the independent media in Serbia. The student-run station Radio Index is also able to broadcast again.

Dec. 3, 1996: Radio B-92 is taken off the air by Serbian authorities. In a letter delivered to the radio station, the Federal Ministry for Transport and Communication of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia declares that the station does not have a valid license to operate. B92's journalists remain on the premises of the radio station and continue to gather news and disseminate it by its Internet site on the World Wide Web: http://www.opennet.org/
B92 editor in chief Veran Matic points out in a letter to the Ministry that the station has repeatedly applied for a license since 1991, but its petitions have been rejected or ignored. He notes further that the radio transmissions were broadcast by a separate legal entity, Radio Television Serbia (RTS), the owner of the transmitter, which has an agreement with B92 to rebroadcast its programming.

Dec. 3, 1996: The student-run independent station Radio Index, which shared a transmitter with Radio B92, is taken off the air by Serbian authorities.

Dec. 3, 1996: The radio station Boom 93 in the town of Pozarevec is banned from broadcasting by government authorities. The private radio station owned its own transmitter and was operating under a temporary license.

Nov. 29, 1996: In Podgorica, Montenegro, authorities threaten not to extend the frequency license of Antenna M, Montenegro's only independent radio station. Antenna M had also been broadcasting reports from Radio B92.

Nov. 29, 1996: The Yugoslav Federal Inspector for Traffic and Communications bans five radio stations (Radio Ozon, Radio Soliter, Dzoker Radio, Radio 96, and Star FM) in Cacak, one of the cities in Serbia where the opposition defeated supporters of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic in the recent local elections. Some of the stations had been broadcasting news programs from Radio B92.

Nov. 27, 1996: The state-owned Borba publishing house refuses to print more than 70,000 copies of the independent daily Blic, which had started to print 250,000 copies after the onset of the demonstrations. The entire editorial board of the newspaper resigns after it is told to stop reporting on the demonstrations.

Nov. 19, 1996: Radio B92's transmission is jammed regularly as the independent radio station begins coverage of widespread demonstrations to protest Milosevic's nullification of the opposition candidates' victories in most Serbian cities in the Nov. 17 municipal elections. By Nov. 28 the broadcasts of B92's entire program from 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. the next day are completely jammed.

Oct. 18, 1996: Milovan Brkic, an investigative journalist for the opposition-owned monthly journal Srpska rec, and a current candidate for the city assembly, is escorted from his office by two plainclothes state security policemen into a car. The policemen drive him to an undetermined location outside Belgrade, where other state security policemen are waiting. The officers then undress Brkic, beat him with sticks, and kick him. Brkic is eventually released and taken to a hospital, where doctors determine he has suffered three broken ribs, a damaged spleen, and a concussion. In the latest issue of Srpska rec, Brkic had published an article discussing the links between state security and organized crime.

July 7, 1996: Slobodan Rackovic, a free-lance journalist based in Petrovac, Montenegro, is arrested and detained for more than three hours at a police station in Petrovac. Police do not bring formal charges against him, but rather describe the incident as an "informal talk." Rackovic's house is searched during his detention and the "talk" is continued the next day. At a press conference earlier, Rackovic had called for the removal from office of Montenegro’s public prosecutor and others responsible for the arrest of Bosnian refugees in Montenegro.

May 29, 1996: City officials in the Serbian industrial town of Smederova take majority control of Radio Smederova, which had been the region's only independent broadcaster, and install members of the ruling Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) on the station's executive board. The city government installs a new station manager and cuts off electricity at the station's offices to ensure the success of the takeover.

April 7, 1996: Six policemen enter the printing offices of Koha, an Albanian-language weekly magazine in Pristina, and order printing to stop until they have examined the issue's contents. The prosecutor's office takes offense at a satirical composite photograph depicting President Milosevic alongside men in Nazi uniforms. The incident results in a three-day publication delay.

March 9, 1996: During a live broadcast of an opposition party rally, the transmission of Radio B92 is blocked. The transmission jams about 40 times while speeches of two opposition leaders are being broadcast. Radio B92 believes police caused the transmission problems because signals can be blocked only from police stations. B92 reporters say that jamming occurs every time the station covers events about the opposition party.

Feb. 15, 1996: Police from the SPS enter the offices of NTV Studio B in Belgrade and shut down its broadcast equipment. The Commercial Court annuls Studio B's registration as a joint stock company, allowing Belgrade's Municipal Assembly to gain control of the station. Most of Studio B's employees are replaced by members of the Municipal Assembly or the SPS. CPJ urges Milosevic to allow Studio B to resume broadcasting without state interference.

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