30Sept97: Managers Sacked at Belgrade TV station

Catherine Fitzpatrick (europe@ccmail.cpj.org)
Wed, 01 Oct 97 18:15:40 EST

October 1, 1997

His Excellency Slobodan Milosevic
President of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
Fax: +381-11-656-862

Your Excellency:

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is writing to strongly
protest the dismissal yesterday of Zoran Ostojic and Lila Radonjic,
the director and editor-in-chief respectively, of Studio B TV, the
popular municipal television station in Belgrade. Their dismissal and
the re-appointment of the station's former director, Dragan
Kojadinovic, has in effect silenced the capital city's only
alternative, pro-democratic voice on television.

After ousting the opposition city Mayor Zoran Djindjic from office,
the combined forces of the Serbian Socialists, Radicals and the
Renewal Movement moved to sack the top management at Studio B TV and
replace them with their own supporters. Since last year's mass
demonstrations that brought the opposition to power in Belgrade and
other cities, Ostojic and Radonjic helped make Studio B TV more
diverse and professional. Yesterday, they were quickly replaced by
Kojadinovic, the station's former manager, whose program policies
favoring the Serbian war lobby prompted over 100 employees to quit the
station in 1993. Before losing control of the station, the staff of
Studio B TV broadcast live footage of the unfolding events, as well as
calls to citizens to attend an evening opposition rally.

The station's entire board of directors was also fired and replaced
by members of the Serbian Renewal Movement, the Radical and Socialist
parties. Aleksander Cotric, a member of Vuk Draskovic's Renewal
Movement, was appointed to head the new board.

Several thousand Belgrade residents demonstrated last night in the
city center against the removal of Djindjic and the managers of Studio
B TV. Scores of police wielding batons beat and detained protesters.
The Association of Independent Electronic Media (ANEM) in Serbia has
protested the hasty, politically-motivated overthrow of Studio B TV's
managers, whom they regarded as impartial and professional. ANEM
leaders complained that the television officials were dismissed
without public knowledge and expressed fear that the new managers
would place party interests before the public interest.

As a non-partisan organization dedicated to defending the rights of
our colleagues around the world, CPJ objects to such blatant
interference by political forces in the personnel and editorial
policies of any media outlet, be it public or privately-owned. The
Committee condemns the removal of the managers of Studio B TV as a
politically-motivated attempt to silence the only alternative
television station in the capital city. The dismissal violates all
international norms on press freedoms and Your Excellency's personal
pledge to CPJ to guarantee the rights of journalists and media
organizations to work freely, without political interference, and to
ensure a diversity of views in the media.

Thank you for your attention. We await your comments.


William A. Orme, Jr.
Executive Director