News for December 28th, 1996

Eighteen people requested medical help in Belgrade's Trauma Center last night, after a score of citizens were beaten in the center of the city after the rally of the oppositional coalition "Zajedno". The Beta news agency was told that the condition of Ivica Lazovic, who was shot in the head on December 24. from a fire-arm, is still critical and that he is still in a coma.

Representatives of student protests of all universities in Serbia met today in Nis and formed a Steering Board of the Student Protest of Serbia '96. A statement by the newly-formed board condemned the Serbian government in harshest terms for breaching the constitution and the laws of the country, thus jeopardizing the fundamental democratic principles of a law-abiding state.

Milo Djukanovic, Montenegran prime minister, sent a letter to the students' initiative board in which he states that it is very important that the students are are aspiring towards democracy and justice. Mr. Djukanovic expressed his regret for not being able to receive the students' delegation during their visit to Podgorica, but claimed that he was pleased that they spoke with the President of the Parliament who passed onto him good impressions from that meeting.

UN High Commissioner for Bosnia Karl Bildt today called on Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic to accept the recommendations of the OSCE delegation and to refrain from further use of violence against the protesters, reports Reuters.

The United States are not surprised with Felipe Gonzalez's report about the local elections in Serbia. The State Department says that his findings coincide with the opinion of the US. Washington stresses that Serbia must start heading towards democracy and accept the recommendations made by Gonzalez. Max Kampelmann, American ambassador, expressed his hopes that Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, together with the Serbian government will realize that it is "in both their interest and that of the Serbian people for the original results of the local elections in Serbia which took place on November 17 to be confirmed." Kampelmann, who came forward as a member of the delegation of the OSCE which recently visited Belgrade for the purpose of investigating the results of the local elections, said in the interview to the radio "Voice of America" last night that the delegation members unanimously decided that the oppositional coalition "Zajedno" won in all of the disputed electoral units.

The New York Times have given information today that Felipe Gonzalez telephoned Slobodan Milosevic on Friday morning to inform him of the report that has been made, concerning the elections in Serbia, which was followed, only a few minutes later, by a phone call from Milan Milutinovic to the Head Officer of OSCE, asking them to avoid informing the public of this document.

European newspapers estimate today that, according to the conclusions and suggestions made by OSCE, the President of Serbia Slobodan Milosevic has two ways he can go from here: either to open the doors to democracy, or to close them and conduct totalitarian rule. The first indications of what he chose to do - such as official underestimation of the report by Gonzalez and his stressing its "unbinding character", with increased police brutality in the clashes with the demonstrators - are not very encouraging. "The opposition wants a dialogue, but the government wants a row" - European reporters conclude.

The Italian government, in a "traditionally cautious tone", by which Rome differs from its allies in the European Union and the NATO, demanded from the government in Belgrade to accept the recommendations the OSCE offered, "especially in the municipalities in which electoral results were annulled", today's "Republic" reports. Most of the leading Italian newspapers state in their cover stories today that "The west is accusing Milosevic" because "he forged the results of the local results in November."

Former Spanish Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez's confirmation in Geneva yesterday that the opposition coalition Zajedno had won in the local elections in 14 major cities in Serbia was the headline news in British electronic media news programs. In a statement to the British Channel Four, OSCE Chairman Flavio Cotti underlined that Felipe Gonzalez did not go to Belgrade at OSCE's urging, but in response to Milosevic's invitation and that the organization gave this mission a mandate only after Belgrade had demanded it.

The attitude of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) that the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) is responsible for the electoral fraud can be a great embarrassment for the Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, is the opinion stated by the British journal "Daily Telegraph". As BBC radio reports in its Serbian language broadcast, the newspaper cites that "Milosevic maintained that it is discontented anarchists that are protesting in Serbia, who are upheld by foreign powers, willing to destabilize Serbia".

Most of the influential Russian media judge that the official Belgrade had decided in advance not to accept the OSCE's position, reports for FoNet Branko Stosic. The Serbian opposition and the participants in massive anti-government protests have received staunch international support in the OSCE's recognition that the opposition was denied its victory. While the official Moscow remains silent about the final statement by the OSCE, Moscow media assess that the turning point was Milosevic's realization that he would not have the Spanish socialist's support. Yugoslav Foreign Minister Milutinovic's statement last night was obviously meant to buy the regime some time. The actions by the police deployed in Belgrade show how this time has been used so far.

More than a month passed before a Greek newspaper, and a pro-government one at that, raised the issue of the non-reaction of the Greek officials to the events in Serbia, informs the correspondent of "FoNet" Slobodan Markovic. The pro-government paper "Ekskusija" in an article named "The silence of Athens" says that it is unacceptable for Greece not to respond to anything that has been happening after the local elections in Serbia, and that this is endangering the process of democratization and the stability of this friendly country, and in that way, the whole of the Balkans as well. In today's report on the funeral of Predrag Starcevic in Belgrade, who was killed by the followers of President Milosevic, the most popular TV station in Greece, "Mega", underlines that "the usage of thousands of policemen in the streets is the only answer Milosevic has to the report by OSCE."

In connection with the report of Felipe Gonzalez, the Chinese only repeat the estimation Milutinovic gave, that it is good, and constructive. China does not comment on these events, holding the opinion that it is Serbia's internal affair.

Milutinovic belittled the findings of OSCE, and the authorities are, through mediation of the police, asking for trouble. The Belgian Soar writes that Milosevic has two alternatives - Romanian or Polish.

The Committee to Protect Journalists has sent a stern protest to Belgrade authorities at the police beating of several journalists covering opposition demonstrations. AFP reports that the CPJ statement observed that, judging by the police brutality used against reporters and the confiscation of several journalists' cameras, video tapes and films, Serbian authorities seem to be carrying out a state policy of discouraging both local and foreign media coverage of public events.

The organization "Reporters Sans Frontiers" today sent a letter to the Chairman of Serbian Parliament Dragan Tomic in which they strongly protest against the way the Serbian administration has treated Milica Torov, journalist of the independent daily "Nasa Borba." The letter states that on December 25, the head of the Parliament's Press Department treated Mrs. Torov indecently, by calling her names and throwing her out of the room. "Reporters Sans Frontiers" have asked Mr. Tomic for an explanation of the incident.

The Independent Journalist Association of Serbia (NUNS) condemned the government's actions against their colleagues and announced that they will seek protection from the international journalist associations.

Rade Radovanovic, spokesman of the United City Sindicate "Nezavisnost", who was beaten by the police in the center of Belgrade last night, directly accused the President of Serbia Slobodan Milosevic, Minister of Internal Affairs Zoran Sokolovic and Head Chief of the police in Belgrade Petar Zekovic for the yesterday's beatings of the citizens in the country's capital.

The sole independent electronic medium in Montenegro, Radio "Antena M" in Podgorica, has had its frequency license revoked. The radio's previous two applications for the extension of their frequency license went unanswered. This radio was the only electronic medium to broadcast live interviews and statements by opposition representatives and, in co-operation with Radio B92, to daily inform about the latest events in Serbia.

Belgrade NGO Information Center reports a testimony by a Belgrade citizen who was beaten up by the police in downtown Belgrade after they had prevented another of by-now usual peaceful protest marches. According to Zoran Nikolic, around 17:15 on December 26, he and a group of citizens standing on the sidewalk near the Balkans Hotel were attacked by the police for shouting "Let's go marching! ." The police, who had formed a cordon, turned around towards the group and started beating the demonstrators, both those on the sidewalk and those who happened to be on the road, claims Nikolic.

Some 10,000 Belgrade citizens and many journalists attended today the funeral of Predrag Starcevic, who died of injuries he sustained after the counter-rally held in Belgrade on December 24. Leaders of the coalition Zajedno were also present at the funeral.

In its prime time news program today, the state-run Serbian Television (RTS) said that the bruises on the body of the deceased Predrag Starcevic, whose funeral was attended by more than 10,000 people today, may be the consequence of a genetic heart malfunction. Radio B92 has tried to find out the official results of the post- mortem at the hospital where it was carried out, but reporters were told that the Judge of the Investigative Court is the only person to whom the results can be made available.

Acting together, the police forces from Belgrade and Novi Sad arrested today Zivco Sandic, aged 46, reports today's issue of the daily "Dnevni Telegraf." The police have reasonable grounds to believe that Sandic was in Knez Mihajlova Street (the very center of Belgrade) on December 24, and that he shot Ivica Lazovic, aged 43, injuring him severely, stated the information service of Belgrade's Police Department. Sandic has already been handed over to the relevant court.

The Nis Electoral Commission decided today to hold election reruns in 23 polling stations, Radio B92 learned from a Democratic Party representative in Nis. The commission allegedly could not decide which of the two were valid -- the original balloting minutes submitted by the coalition Zajedno or the minutes which were subsequently altered. The commission has therefore annulled the original election results and called for new balloting, said the Democratic Party representative, adding that the coalition Zajedno will not participate in these.

Buses and other vehicles, filled with policemen, were parked around and in front of the City Assembly this afternoon. Nine buses, carrying the members of the police force, were seen near the park located across the street, as well as on the pavement in front of the Assembly at 17:00. Most of the buses were from towns in Vojvodina - Zrenjanin, Kikinda, Vrsac and Pancevo. Access to the Assembly was literally blocked by police jeeps, vans and automobiles.

Citizens of Kragujevac protested the annulment of the local elections' results for the 33rd time today. The newly elected board members from the coalition "Zajedno", Vesna Pajevic, Miroslav Marinkovic and Borivoje Radic addressed the protesters.

Despite extremely poor weather conditions, coalition Zajedno held protest rallies last night in both Zajecar and Pirot. In both cities the turn-out was some 1,000. The marches in the two cities went without any incidents and the police forces monitoring them were scarce.

The protest gathering of the people in Prokuplje was conducted at the town's main square, because the police prevented the demonstrators from marching through the streets.

The Socialdemocratic Union (SDU) expressed its grave concern regarding the violence conducted on the participants of the demonstrations in Belgrade and evaluated that President Milosevic finally showed his true face while protecting his personal might.

A few hundred of the distinguished citizens of Belgrade signed a declaration explaining why they support the protests taking place in the city center and why they participate in the citizens' resistance to the government policy.

The Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO) announced today that the lawyer's office of Ruzica Lekic, in Pozarevac, was once again demolished, for the second time in the last seven days. Ruzica Lekic is the secretary of the Branicevo district council of SPO, it is added in the announcement. It is also added that the windows on SPO headquarters in Pozarevac were also smashed twice in the last few days.

Vesna Pesic, President of Civil Alliance of Serbia, estimated today that the Serbian regime no longer has the voters' support and that it can only rely on its mercenaries in the police forces.

Professors and associates of the Law School in Belgrade appealed today to Ministries in power by an open letter in which they harshly condemned police actions towards the demonstrators and demanded that they stop misusing their legal authority.

The managing board of "Zorka" has announced the initiation of disciplinary measures against the workers who have given support to students' demonstrations.

Representatives of the "Zajedno" coalition in Leskovac were summoned to report to the Police Department where they were told that they would not be able to conduct protest marches in the future with permission. Bojana Ristic told the protesters gathered in the town center that the "Zajedno" coalition delegation told the police officials that the marches would continue.

The police stopped more than a thousand citizens of Bor, who have been protesting for the last 19 days from starting their daily march through the city.

Vladimir Stambuk, President of the United Yugoslav Left Committee (JUL) for Foreign Affairs, stated at a press conference today that JUL is satisfied with the results of their activities in 1996, during which time the number of its members and followers increased, it boosted its political program in public and was successful in recent elections, the media in Belgrade inform. When asked to comment on the report made by Felipe Gonzalez, Stambuk said that JUL is "very pleased" with Gonzalez's letter.

In connection with the information on their resignations, misunderstandings and the selling of the BK Television, a group of 32 employees of this institution, among which are well known journalists and editors of this TV station, informed the public that "they are staying in BK, which was, and will be, a symbol of a good TV station".

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