28Jan96: Serbian TV Stations Harassed

Catherine Fitzpatrick (europe@ccmail.cpj.org)
Tue, 28 Jan 97 14:24:19 EST

Jan. 23, 1997

His Excellency Slobodan Milosevic
President of Serbia
Fax: +381-11-656-862

Your Excellency,

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is writing to express its
strong concern about punitive actions by the ruling socialist party
(SPS) of Serbia against radio and television stations where opposition
candidates have won or contested official annulment of November
municipal elections.

The former Socialist party manager of a television station in the
central Serbian town of Trstenik where opposition party members were
elected reportedly drove off last month with a van, high-range
transmitter and other equipment that belonged to the station. The
station subsequently acquired new equipment to begin broadcasting on
January 19 but was further crippled last Saturday when it was looted
of its cameras and telephone.

On Friday, January 24, the federal Ministry of Transport and
Communication informed Kanal 4, a local television station in the
Western Serbian town of Bajina Basta, that its broadcasts were
suspended. Kanal 4 had been broadcasting daily reports about the
demonstrations in Belgrade against the ruling party and its leader.
The station remains off the air.

In Kragujevac, the local radio and television stations have been
forbidden from broadcasting anything but commercial and entertainment
programs until a court decision determines which party is authorized
to run the station. The ruling Socialist Party (SPS) of Serbia has
refused to yield control of the local radio and television offices to
newly-elected opposition city council members. The SPS instead
integrated Kragujevac's radio and television stations into the
SPS-controlled national Serbian television network and sent 200 police
into Kragujevac's media offices to prevent an opposition take-over.

As a nonpartisan organization dedicated to defending our colleagues
around the world, CPJ is distressed by the oppressive reaction of SPS
members to radio and television stations slipping out of their
control. Yugoslav taxpayers support broadcasting through mandatory
television subscriptions in their electric bills and they have the
right to demand greater independence and diversity in news
programming. Furthermore, the current state monopoly over television
broadcasting runs counter to the notion of a free media--which you
have pledged to support.

Once again, CPJ urges you to devise lawful and equitable remedies to
the television crisis in Serbia by authorizing municipal councils to
grant broadcast licenses.

Thank you for your attention and we await your reply.


William A. Orme, Jr
Executive Director


Ambassador Zoren Popovic
Ambassador Dragomir Djokic
Open Society Institute, Belgrade
UNPROFOR, Belgrade