4Sept97: CPJ Concern About Return of Bosnian Transmitter

Catherine Fitzpatrick (europe@ccmail.cpj.org)
Fri, 05 Sep 97 16:35:10 EST

September 4, 1997

Madeleine K. Albright
Secretary of State
Department of State
Washington, DC

Dear Madame Secretary,

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is writing to express
concern about the recent decision by NATO to return the Udrigovo
transmitter near Bjiljina in northeast Bosnia, Republika Srpska (RS),
to supporters of indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic.

CPJ welcomes SFOR's original decision to protect the transmitter from
an orchestrated mob attack on September 1. We are extremely distressed
by the repercussions of the decision to cede control of the television
tower to Bosnian Serbs under the direction of Momcilo Krajisnik, the
Serbs' representative to Bosnia's collective federal presidency in
response to their threat to boycott the September elections.

With the ceding of the television tower, CPJ fears that opportunities
to secure a space for alternative broadcasting may be compromised.
Originally, NATO had decided to secure the area around the transmitter
precisely to prevent opposing factions from battling for its control,
and to ensure more diversity in news broadcasts. Alternative local
television stations supported in part by USAID are struggling to
report objectively in a violent, polarized situation. Without some
backing by the international community, such media will be silenced on
the eve of the elections.

In the weeks leading up to the elections, Karadzic and his followers
have dominated the electronic media and broadcast threats against
reporters who dare to cover the story differently. According to the
Institute for War and Peace Reporting, on August 20, RS Minister of
Information Svetlana Siljegovic issued a warning on SRT,the
state-controlled television station, claiming that the international
community was engaging in censorship. Claiming that her goal was to
"protect journalists," she warned that it is "more important to be a
journalist in a national media outlet [i.e. to be loyal to the ruling
party and preserve one's job] than to be paid to carry other people's

SFOR troops relinquished control of the television tower after
receiving assurances--recognized by U.S. officials as dubious at
best--that Karadzic's supporters will ensure access to the transmitter
by other factions and will cease disseminating anti-NATO propaganda.

As we stated in our May 20 letter to you, CPJ believes that NATO's
mission in Bosnia is to enforce the Dayton Accords, which provide
ample guarantees for press freedom, and to ensure that a variety of
viewpoints--including criticism of the actions of NATO--can be
expressed in the local media.


William A. Orme, Jr.
Executive Director