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For Immediate Release
Dec. 8, 1996

Cathy Fitzpatrick
(212) 465-9344 x-101
Amanda Onion
(212) 465-9344 x-110

Leader of US Journalists' Group Obtains Pledge From Serbian President to Respect Press Freedom Urges Continued Pressure to Keep Media Open

December 8--Belgrade Kati Marton, chair of the U.S. Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), in a news conference today at the offices of Radio B92-Internet in Belgrade, released a pledge obtained from Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic yesterday in a two-and-a-half hour meeting. In a signed statement drafted by Marton, Milosevic “reiterated our support for a free press in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia [FRY] and the right to publish and broadcast freely in the FRY.”

“The pledge is not nearly as specific and full as I had hoped,” Marton noted. “It’s a symbolic document.” She came to the meeting with the Serbian president yesterday with a “manifesto for him to sign,” mentioning B92 and other broadcast and print media closed or obstructed in recent weeks. At first Milosevic “physically tore up the paper,” Marton said, refusing to admit that he had practiced censorship. Marton persisted, finally handing him a handwritten statement endorsing the right to a free media, which the President signed.

“Milosevic also verbally promised to keep hands off B92,” said Marton, referring to the largest independent radio station in Belgrade, shut down for two days last week during tumultuous demonstrations challenging the Serbian president’s nullification of the results of the Nov. 17 municipal elections. B92 and another station, Radio Index, are now back on the air. “It was due to the combined pressure of U.S. and Western European press freedom groups and governments, and the offer to have [U.S. radio stations] Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty serve as stand-ins for local broadcasters,” said Marton. “Now we need to maintain pressure in order to keep the media open in Yugoslavia,” said the CPJ chair.

“This was Milosevic’s first meeting with the fourth estate since the demonstrations began,” the American journalist noted. Marton, an author and former foreign correspondent, has served as the chair of the board of directors of the Committee to Protect Journalist since 1994. She is the host of the National Public Radio program "America and the World," aired in New York on WNYC and on public radio stations across the country.

In Belgrade to investigate the status of the independent media, Marton has met with more than one hundred reporters from various independent news outlets still facing government pressure and has witnessed the throngs of marchers. “The opposition is handling the situation well,” she commented. “They are showing remarkable restraint and calm, as well as great tenacity and courage.” Marton also obtained the signature of opposition leader Vuk Draskovic to the pledge to respect the right of the free media to operate freely.

Radio B92 in Belgrade also maintains a site at www.opennet.org CPJ is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization devoted to the defense of press freedom and the professional rights of journalists around the world.

The information in this news alert may be freely copied and distributed provided that it is properly attributed to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
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