Ivo Skoric on Fri, 15 Jan 1999 03:44:10 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> HRW & CPJ press release (Serbian media)

Nice try. Cooperative effort among American NGO-s is admirable, but I 
am not sure if Milosevic is getting impressed with protest letters. 
Alternatively, his propaganda machine may print this letter on a CIA 
letterhead and then hold a press-conference in which they will pay an 
hommage to Serbian intelligence that obtained yet another secret 
American document (first being the public web page of The Balkans 
Institute of the USIP - United States Institute of Peace - in which 
American government is commended with efforts to remove Milosevic). 

They just published the full, unedited version of Milosevic's 
interview for Newsweek and Washington Post. Montenegrin press, 
however, commented the event ironically with headlines like - 
"Serbia: the largest democracy..." Getting the hint, many media that 
got closed down by the new Serbian communications law, moved to 
Montenegro. "Evropljanin" has moved his headquarters to Montenegro 
and it is printed at a printer in Zagreb (Croatia). The fact that a 
Serbian newspaper is now printed in Croatia is an important leap for 
inter-ethnic tolerance in postyugoslav societies. For many years 
there was no cross-country support - not even to the opposition 


Human Rights Watch
350 Fifth Ave.  34th floor
NY, NY.  10118-3299
Telephone: 212-216-1270
Facsimile: 212-736-1300
E-mail: hrwnyc@hrw.org

Committee to Protect Journalists
330 7th Avenue, 12th Floor
New York, NY, 10001
E-mail: europe@cpj.org

FOR RELEASE: January 13, 1999

For further information contact:
Human Rights Watch: Fred Abrahams (212) 216-1270
Committee to Protect Journalists: Ann Cooper (212) 465-1004

Government Silencing Independent Media

(New York, January 13, 1999)  Human Rights Watch and the Committee to 
Protect Journalists today sent a joint protest letter to Yugoslav 
President Slobodan Milosevic condemning the politically-motivated 
charges against Nikola Duric, general manager and editor-in-chief of 
City Radio in Nis.

On January 18, 1999, Duric will go on trial in Nis for broadcasting a 
radio program without a license - a charge for which he could be 
sentenced with up to one year in prison.  While Mr. Duric did 
broadcast without a license, he did so only after having been denied a 
license in a politically-based procedure that specifically denied 
licenses to private radio and television stations that provide 
objective news.  The trial, concludes Holly Cartner, Executive 
Director of Human Rights Watch's Europe and Central Asia Division, is 
"another illegal and unjustified attack on the independent media" in 
the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

The letter is attached below, and can also be found at: 
www.hrw.org or www.cpj.org

January 13, 1999

President Milosevic:

        We are writing to protest what Human Rights Watch and the 
Committee to Protect Journalists view as yet another illegal and 
unjustified attack on the independent media in Yugoslavia: the 
forthcoming trial of Nikola Duric, general manager and editor-in-chief 
of City Radio in Nis.

        Mr. Duric's trial is scheduled to take place on January 18, 
1999, in Nis.  He is charged with broadcasting a radio program without 
a license, based on article 219, paragraph 1, of the Serbian criminal 
code.  If convicted, he faces up to one year in prison.

        The station was closed by the Ministry of Telecommunications 
on August 18, 1998, when two policemen entered the studio and seized 
part of the station's transmitter. 

        While Mr. Duric did broadcast a radio program without a 
license, he did so only after having been denied a license in a 
politically-based procedure that violates your government's obligations 
under both domestic and international law.  As we have commented many 
times in the past, we object to the politically motivated 
decision-making process employed by the Ministry of Telecommunications 
to distribute licenses for private radio and television stations.  
After a complex and contradictory application process, the ministry 
readily gives licenses to stations that are either pro-government or 
provide entertainment, while denying licenses to stations that are 
independent or report critically on the government.  The few stations 
that do get licenses must pay disproportionately high fees.

       In short, we believe that the state purposefully denies 
licenses to stations that are independent, and that City Radio, which 
fulfilled all application requirements for a license under the 
government's 1998 frequency tender, was illegally denied a broadcast 
license based on its journalistic independence.  Although the second 
round of the tender is technically still open, City Radio and dozens 
of other independent radio stations have not received any information 
about their pending applications.

        City Radio is the first station to face criminal charges in 
connection with the distribution of frequencies.  Four other stations 
in Nis are operating without a license, but none of them have been 
charged with illegal broadcasting.  We believe that City Radio, as a 
member of the Association of Independent Electronic Media (ANEM) and a 
provider of objective news, is being targeted because it presents 
information that is critical of the government.

        We consider the forthcoming trial against Mr. Duric to be in 
direct violation of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia's obligations to 
guarantee freedom of the press, and we call on you to ensure that the 
politically-motivated charges against Mr. Duric  are withdrawn.  As a 
matter of urgency, a new set of media laws on the republic and federal 
level that guarantee the distribution of broadcast frequencies on a 
non-political basis should be adopted.  Until then,  we call on your 
government to permit all currently operating radio and television 
stations to broadcast without interference.


Holly Cartner
Executive Director, Europe and Central Asia Division

Ann K. Cooper
Executive Director, Committee to Protect Journalists

cc:     Belgrade embassies of the Contact Group
        Belgrade office of the European Union
        Freimut Duve, Organization for Security and Cooperation in     
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