Central Europe Review: politics, society and culture in Central and Eastern Europe
Vol 2, No 11
20 March 2000

Hungarian News Round-up C E N T R A L   E U R O P E A N    N E W S:
News Round-up for Serbia
News from Serbia since 12 March 2000

Vana Suša

On the morning of Sunday 12 March, police shut down the local television and radio station in the southeastern Serbian town of Pozega. Federal telecommunications inspectors and around fifteen policemen broke down the door that leads to the top of the building, where they confiscated the transmission equipment of the station. The official explanation for this act was that the local television and radio station does not have a broadcast license and also that the station owes money to the state for the usage of its frequencies.

On the evening of Sunday 12 March, police broke up a demonstration in Pozega against the closing of the station, and one pensioner, Milenko Vuković (70), lost his life. Speakers at the demonstration expressed their dissatisfaction over the "state's acts violence against independent media" in Serbia. At the demostration, Pozega Mayor Tihomir Marjanović said that instead of laws the state uses a "cowboy-like system of violence." During the meeting, representatives of G-17 Mlađan Dinkić and Miroljub Labus also spoke. They said: "We knew this would happen, as we know that after Pozega it is Studio B's turn." A representative of the New Democracy Party, Velimir Ilić, stated that the "initial spark for a united opposition movement has ooccurred in Pozega" (Blic, 13 March).

Leaders of the democratic opposition called all citizens of Belgrade to gather if the ruling regime disables the work of the local TV station. Monday's meeting preceded a midnight deadline set by the Federal Telecommunication Ministry for Studio B to pay for its use of radio frequencies. If it does not pay YUD 11 million dinars (USD 244,000 at the black-market exchange rate), the station could face closure.

A protest meeting will start in front of the city parliament at 1500 CET, the first day after Studio B programming is disabled, it was stated after a meeting of the united opposition. The meeting was closed to the public while opposition leaders were giving their statements to the local independent media. Zoran Đinđić, the President of Democratic Party, gave a statement by telephone to Blic, saying that the meeting discussed attacks on independent media and the possibility of future attacks on Studio B. Đinđić said that he proposed the formation of a headquarters and round-the-clock shifts that would watch over the transmission department. Furthermore, Đinđić stated that he suggested to other opposition leaders that they inform citizens of the means with which they plan to defend the independent media.

Vojislav Kostunica, President of Democratic Party of Serbia, stated that the possible future attacks on Studio B could serve as a spark for the opposition's reaction. When asked why opposition leaders have reacted only on the attack of Studio B, Kostunica said: "Opposition parties will react in case of any other closings of local TV stations, because they are all equally important."

On Tuesday 14 March, Studio B paid its fine to the state. Belgrade's opposition-run city government on Tuesday settled debts owed to the state by the capital's main independent television station, heading off its closure and likely protests, a news agency reported. The move followed a Yugoslav government warning that it would close down all media which owed money for use of frequencies. Dragan Kojadinović, the director of Belgrade's Studio B television station, said the city hall had acted to prevent clashes between police who were ready to storm the station and those prepared to defend the station, the independent Beta news agency reported. He said the city government had paid all Studio B's YUD 11 million debt owed to the federal government.

US State Department Spokesman Rubin warned Kosovo Albanians leaders not to misuse the trust of the United States and the West. Rubin stated that the United States is worried about the lack of responsibility for everything that is happening in Kosovo. What was promised to Kosovo from Western countries was military intervention, nothing more, Rubin said. "People who claim the opposite are not telling the truth because of their personal interests and benefits, or they have been deceived by someone" (Beta-Reuters).

On 15 March Slobodan Milošević attended the annual evaluation of the Yugoslav Army's work and conduct. After the reception and a visit from the honor guard, Milošević met with the new Minister of Defense, Dragoljub Ojdanić, members of the General Staff of the Army, and commanders of strategic groups. During the detailed analysis of the Yugoslav Army, it was concluded that the success of commanders, the level and training in military schools, security and the morale of the army are exceptionally good. A spokesperson for the headquarters of the Yugoslav Army stated that the UN's mission in Kosovo should end as soon as possible. "The Yugoslav Army represents the positive factor of the defense of the independence and integrity of the country and the freedom of its people," stated Milošević. "Our army and our commanders have strong patriotism, good training, responsibility and inventiveness that was manifested during their defense of Yugoslavia against aggression," continued Milošević. He continued by emphasizing that the United Nations has failed in its attempt to insure stability and peace in the region. "They are supposed to use their authority and impartiality in order to tame Albanian terrorists, but we have a situation in which terrorism grows under their command, even financially... Such a mission is in accord with the orders from the present administration of the American regime. Such a mission should be ended as soon as possible," Milošević concluded.

Vana Suša, 17 March 2000



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