Veran Matic on Thu, 14 May 1998 21:23:48 +0200 (MET DST)

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<nettime> urgent: ANEM appeal to the international community and protest

letter to Yugoslav and Serbian governmental officials
Precedence: bulk

Dear Friends, 

The Association of Independent Electronic Media (ANEM) would like to
inform you that the state's attempt to to ban independent broadcast media
in Serbia is nearing its end. On May 8 1998 the Official Gazzette of the
FR Yugoslavia published the decision by the Yugoslav Telecommunications
Ministry as of April 7 1998, declaring the amounts of fees to be paid by
radio and television stations which will ge granted temporary licences in
the public frequency tender. The deadline for the ministry to publicise
the tender's results is May 15 - the end of this week.
ANEM members and most other broadcast media that have tendered for
frequencies believe that the decree on the frees is an illegitimate and
illegal act, a fraud against stations that has removed the last feeble
hope that the state was frank when it announced that this frequency tender
would legalise most of broadcast media.

The decree is completely unconstitutional and without any legal ground.
The fees it introduces are obligatory only for some media, whereas others,
which have been registered earlier, do not have to pay anything. Thus, the
decree establishes discrimination among stations.

The very amount of the fees is enormous and incompatible with stations'
economic power. This is especially true for those operating in cities from
several transmitters and work within a network (such as ANEM Radio or
Television Network). The fees exceed all other similar taxes required in
the neigbouring countries or countries of a similar level of economic
development. If it got the radio and television frequency licences it has
applied for, Radio B92 in Belgrade would, for instance, have to pay a
rough sum of USD 20,000 for the radio or USD 40,000 for television channel
a month. This makes it obvious that this is in fact the state's clampdown
on the "inappropriate" stations by economic enforcement measures. 

What should also be kept in mind is that not even the collection of these
fees will in practice be applied equally to all (this is already the case
with many other state taxes): the state will find a way to cancel,
postpone or compensate this fee to stations under its control, while the
independent media will be exposed to ruthless collection measures.

While reviewing the applications over the past two months, the ministry
ruled in absolute secrecy, according to unknown criteria and without any
possibility for stations or the general public to get an insight or
information on what is going on. The inclarity and illegality of the
initiation of the frequency tender itself have offered additional backing
to such proceedings by the ministry. The most recent unofficial but
reliable inforamtion we have received says that out of 426 applications
filed to the ministry for a frequency licence in this tender, only about
100 will be approved. These belong mostly to stations bakced by the ruling
parties or influential individuals (among other things, President
Milosevic's son is launching his own station, so now everybody in the
family will run his/her own public medium). This lot will exclude almost
all independent news media. Stations that are refused a licence (estimates
have it that there is almost 1,000 broadcast media with unregulated
status), especially those who dissatisfy the authorities, will certainly
face closure, either because they have not been granted a licence or
because they cannot economically sustain the fees required.

ANEM mebers have filed complete application documentation the authorities
have required, in a timely manner. As things now stand, the authorities
will in all likelihood refuse licences to almost all ANEM members; the
"fortunate ones" will face the enormous fees. This jeopardizes the future
operation of the ANEM Radio Network and the development of the ANEM
Television Network, which have been the only serious attempts to set up a
media counter-balance to the most often unobjective reports by the
powerful state and para-state media.

ANEM and its members will undertake a number of legal and other steps to
prevent the spread of media darkness that looms large over our country. 
This effort needs your support. In keeping with the arguments we have laid
out above, and for the sake of assisting independent broadcast media in
Serbia and protecting the rights of its citizens to true information, we
ask you to take all steps at your disposal to dissuade the Yugoslav
authorities from such actions and to support ANEM's future actions. These
actions will aim:

1. To cancell completely the public frequency tender for temporary
licences and the decision on the fees for the use of frequencies, for ANEM
deems them an epitomy of illegal procedures and state despotism; to get
the current minister, Dojcilo Radojevic, replaced, as he is directly
responsible for this debacle. If these demands are not met, ANEM will
demand that all broadcast media which meet minimum technical conditions be
issued temporary licences and that the fees be either cancelled or
drastically reduced until the new system laws have been adopted.

2. To get new system laws passed without any further delay; these laws
should lay out media- and telecommunications-related regulations on the
model of modern regulations that exist not only in the developed countries
of the West but also in Yugoslavia's neigbouring countries. These
regulations should then be used to trully "bring order into the ether" of
Serbia and Yugoslavia.

3. To prevent closures media in Serbia before the passing of new, modern
regulations that will provide equal treatment for all. 

4. To inform the both local and international public of the repressive
actions state agencies have been carrying out against electronic media and
to expose fully their undemocratic nature, which the current government
has been trying to conceal under the veil of technical or economic rather
than political criteria. 

5. To see to it that Yugoslav authorities' actions against independent
media, especially electronic ones, become one of the criteria for FR
Yugoslavia's admission into international organisations and forums and for
any possible change in its international status and relations with the
international community at all levels.

We shall continue to keep you informed about future developments and steps
we shall be taking, though our press releases and especially through the
reports on the work of the International Committee to Protect Free Media
we shall soon set up.

The situation is trully alarming and dangerous, but this by no means
implies that we believe the struggle for independent media lost. The state
is abundantly manipulating the difficulties now plaguing Serbia and
Yugoslavia to many of its destructive aims. Therefore, a great joint
effort needs to be exerted once again (now perhaps more than ever) to
connect all organisations, institutions and individuals who care about the
preservation of the right to free information in Serbia. The state is
openly preparing for a showdown with independent media and is also
preparing the general public in Serbia for such an event. High state
officials do not hesitate to call us worst names and refuse to give
statements to independent stations despite their legal obligation to treat
all media as equal. Our joint, fast and efficient action is therefore

We trust that you will, as many times before, accept our appeal and that,
with your help, we shall be able not only to escape the worst fate but
also to come one step closer to a free and democratic society.

Attached is the protest letter ANEM has sent to the Yugoslav and Serbian
governmental officials in charge. 

Sincerely yours, 

Veran Matic
ANEM Chairman



To: 	Yugoslav Prime Minister Radoje Kontic
	Yugoslav Telecommunications Minister Dojcilo Radojevic
	Yugoslav Information Secretary Goran Matic
	Serbian Information Minister Aleksandar Vucic	 

	May 13, 1998

Dear Sirs, 

As the chairman of the Association of Independent Electronic Media (ANEM),
I am addressing you with regard to the publication of the Decision on the
fees for the temporary use of radio-frequencies and television channels
(the Official Gazzette of FR Yugoslavia, May 8 1998 issue). On behalf of
all our affiliates - radio and television stations in Yugoslavia, I wish
to express the grave dismay at both the decision's content and the manner
in which it was published.

The said decision was reached without any constitutional or legal ground. 
The regulation in FR Yugoslavia's constitution referred to in the decision
does not exist*, nor does the appropriate article in the Law on Systems of
Connections that could be cited while passing this decision. Therefore,
the decision, as the whole public frequency tender for that matter, is a
demonstration of an unacceptable voluntarism and absolute arbitrariness of
the federal agencies - the Government, the Telecommunications Ministry -
and has no ground in our legal system. 

The fees declared in the decision are far beyond the abilities of radio
and television stations. Did you really think that you will get legalised
a radio station in Belgrade if it must pay 120,000-180,000 dinars a month
only for the fee? Or a television station if it must pay twice as much? Or
was the true intention to shut down these stations through economic

The decision also breaches the principle of equality of all legal
subjects. It is absurd that stations that have 10-year licences do not
pay any fees, whereas enormous amounts are charged for temporary licences. 

Another problem is also the fact that the decision was passed on April 7
but published only on May 8. Why was it necessary to hide the amounts of
the fee from the stations until the last moment? Many of them probably
would not have undergone the huge costs for preparing the required
application documentation, had they known that they would be faced with
these fees. The Telecommunications Ministry's and other federal agencies'
persistent practice of concealing all crucial facts pertaining to the
public tender and keeping information that would normaly have been
available a complete secret, especially with regard to the amount of the
fees, is absolutely incomprehensible. Irresponsibe concealment of
information has inflicted vast material damage on stations (we assess that
all stations have in order to apply had costs amonting to some 5,000,000
DM). Stations are carrying out serious preparations to sue the federal
state because of this.

ANEM believes that the publication of this decision has finally and
completely compromised the proclaimed idea that the public frequency
tender would legalise most of the stations in Yugoslavia which met
technical requirements for operation. This action has inflicted damage not
only to broadcast media but also to the overall image of the operation and
activities of the federal agencies. ANEM therefore proposes that you do
everything in your authority to either completely rescind the said
decision or at least change it so that all stations which meet the minimum
technical conditions be issued with tempory licences and thus be enabled
to reduce further negative consequences that might appear.

On behalf of ANEM, 
Veran Matic

*The Decision on the frees for the use of frequencies cites Article 9,
Point 4 of the Yugoslav constitution, while that article has clauses rather
than points. This is a formal error.  

Veran Matic, Editor in Chief		                 tel: +381-11-322-9922
Radio B92, Belgrade, Yugoslavia			         fax: +381-11-324-8075

          Radio B92 Official Web Site ---

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