media center on Sat, 31 Oct 1998 09:34:41 +0100

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Belgrade, October 28, 1998

To Information Minister Aleksandar Vucic


Minister Vucic:

Enough is enough! Serbia needs not an information minister apt to lie
twice a week. So far, liars have spread the truth about Serbia. And
that&rsquo;s why we have what we have. Minister Vucic, you are a layman in
lies: you simply don't know how to do it and you have no talent. That is
encouraging as there still is a chance for your salvation. There still is
a hope for you and that is why I am writing. 

In a magazine I work for, I have already called you a liar. I did it
because on that unfortunate night - when your officials were
anti-constitutionally, illegally and arbitrarily closing down two dailies
&ndash; you claimed you "haven&rsquo;t the faintest idea" about it. As an
information minister, you lied to reporters. 

Your next lie was a much more serious one. Late on October 22, when asked
in an interview why there had been no public debate on the draft
information law, you replied: "What&rsquo;s a public debate? That was
characteristic of the socialist system." However, the front page of the
draft information law submitted to the parliamentary deputies bears an
explanation saying that the draft has been made following a comprehensive
public debate in Serbia. Who did you lie to and when? Did you lie to
parliamentary deputies by your written explanation or did you lie in the
quoted interview? Well, let me tell you. You lied to the People's Assembly
in your ministerial capacity, since there could have been no public debate
on the draft law, hidden away as a top secret (out of shame, I suppose). 

Then, on October 23, you told a press conference in cold blood that the
People's Assembly of Serbia has "unanimously adopted" the law. It seems,
Minister Vucic, that you are learning your lessons in advance. The
Assembly would "unanimously" adopt such scandalous and anti-constitutional
laws only if you and your accomplices managed to turn Serbia into a
one-party, totalitarian dictatorship. As I can see, you are going all out
to make that deal. 

At the same press conference, you argued that "the public prosecutor
starts a legal procedure." As a graduate student of law, you should have
known that in this system there is no public prosecutor to start any legal
procedure. Perhaps he might in some future system of yours. Just don't
tell me, Minister Vucic, that you didn't know that at the same point your
press conference took place the city magistrate for petty offenses has
already had his hands full with acting in line with charges made by a
group of people that calls itself "the Patriotic Alliance of Belgrade."
You did know. Is your ministry due - as a supervisory body cited by the
law - to start a procedure with a relevant court or is it a duty - for God
knows what reason - of a public prosecutor? Are your going to denounce the
measures taken against the Evropljanin magazine on the grounds of false
identification by the accusers? Who's in charge of starting a procedure,
Minister? The public prosecutor or your ministry? Who's in charge of
"warning" journalists, as stipulated by the law? The public prosecutor or
your ministry? Your haven't read, Minister, your own law! 

So, Minister Vucic, do resign since enough is enough! You haven't even
read the law that you had yourself proposed and explained before
parliamentary deputies. This is an insult to the People's Assembly and to
the common sense. Your behavior has already inflicted irreparable moral
and political damage to the Republic of Serbia, to its judiciary and
legislature, to its reputation and dignity, but also to your own. The
anti-constitutional, illegal and scandalous trial has also inflicted
&ndash; again in an anti-constitutional and illegal way - irreparable
damage to and violated basic constitutional and civil rights of a
publishing house and three innocent people, sentenced to the confiscation
of their property. If you don&rsquo;t put an end to that scandal and if
their property is robbed, your name, reputation and honor will be marred
forever. But that's your funeral! However, the name, reputation and honor
of the Republic of Serbia are my funeral, too. If you want to save your
face and be a human being - simply resign. 

Though, all things considered, there is an alternative. Just submit to the
Serbian parliament another law, similar to this one or - preferably - the
one that you have replaced by this legal monster. Give it a thought! Your
law is a premature infant in terms of law, politics and ethic, it's more
like an unsuccessful than a successful abortion. Your law is a monster,
Mr. Minister, while its application - or, to put it better, its whipping
up - contrary to precise provisions even of such a monster law, points out
to your objective: to abolish free press in Serbia and introduce
censorship. How else can one interpret your statement at the same press
conference: "The punishments are not proscribed because someone wants them
to be applied, but to act preventively." Preventively means, Mr. Minister,
that the Serbian press and radio stations are supposed to predict what may
be thoughts or feelings by some sorts of "patriotic alliances", public
prosecutors, you, your associates, etc., as it is unclear who's in charge
of starting a procedure. The true censorship is much better. Therefore,
Mr. Minister, why not change the law, introduce censors and delegate them
to editorial offices so that they can preventively scrutinize articles,
photographs, radio and TV programs? Thus we could at least be able to work
normally and play up to the clear, though enforced rules. Even that is
better than this violence of legality, constitution, ethics and human

Why didn't your ministry respect the information law by sending a prior
warning to the Evropljanin magazine? Is it because you were ashamed to
issue a written order on how the Serbian press should be made and thus
acknowledge that the censorship had been installed? And wasn't it? Be
brave, be a man and start issuing notices so that we know our places and
know what we are not to write about. Be consistent and brave: just tell us
openly that you have introduced a preventive censorship, so that we can
respect you for your sincerity if we already despise you for choking free
press that is unprecedented in Serbia for over 150 years. 

Minister Vucic, the proposal, the adoption and the application of what you
call a law on public information has implied a number of crimes that will
sooner or later bring offenders to justice. I am urged by my sense of
civil duty, patriotism and justice to make charges against you and your
accomplices. That's what I will do when I deem it appropriate. 

I will charge you with the attack against the constitutional order, the
misuse of your office, the damage to the Republic of Serbia's reputation,
the violation of equal rights for all, the prevention to print and
distribute the printed matter, the negligence of your duties, the
sabotage, the illegal influence on the state bodies, the illegal seizure
of other persons' movables, the transgression of private property, etc.
These deeds have resulted in a considerable material damage and an
unmeasurable political one. We shall, therefore, demand that you, being a
recidivist, be taken into custody. I refuse to believe that the public
prosecutor might rule out my charges. The worst crimes quoted herein are
not subject to the statute of limitations. Neither will your immunity nor
your string of luck last forever, Minister Vucic. Think of future and try
not to be taken over by your accomplices' actual panic. 

Should you fail to do anything, Minister Vucic, be aware (as you probably
are) that the further application of this brutal and muddy law paves the
way to a totalitarian dictatorship in Serbia and thus to a possible civil
war. If you want to share the responsibility of a possible bloodshed, say
it straight away. I don&rsquo;t want to and, hopefully, neither do you.
But take care, Minister, because politics stands for an exact science. If
you suppress free press as the highest democratic standard and the basic
rule in a democratic state, can you guarantee that your accomplices'
ruling coalition will not want to close the deal by imposing a
totalitarian regime? Will your accomplices be able to resist the sweet
temptations of a dictatorship and total political, moral and criminal
unliability? You know them, Minister Vucic, better than I do. Are you
ready to share the responsibility for Serbia's ill fortune? Say if you
are. This law and its muddy application are gradually imposing a
dictatorship. You are the one who challenges. But are you sure that you
will win the conflict that threatens us all? 

The hour has come, Minister Vucic. Stop lying and say openly what is it
you want. Stop dodging and disgracing yourself by contradictory
statements. Read that unfortunate law of yours and apply it at least as it
proscribes. In God's name, at least put it in concert with the law on
petty offenses if you are not ready to respect the Serbian and the
Yugoslav constitutions and other existing laws. 

It is your patriotic duty to as soon as possible replace this monster law
with a normal regulation. It is your moral obligation to resign if you
refuse of dare not do the above. Enough&rsquo;s enough! 

Milos Vasic,

President of the Independent Journalists Association of Serbia

MEDIA CENTER Makedonska 5 11000 Belgrade Yugoslavia tel: (381 11) 3283734
fax: (381 11) 634537 e-mail: <>

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