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geert lovink: ANEM media update [27 june]

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Date: Mon, 28 Jun 1999 21:51:18 +0200 (CEST)
From: Geert Lovink <>
Subject: ANEM media update 

ANEM media update

TV SOKO CLOSED AGAIN;  Ristic imprisonment upheld;  Ministry Threatens
Charges for FREQUENCY Fee Defaulters

BELGRADE, June 27 -- TV Soko in Sokobanja was again closed down on June
25. Telecommunications inspectors, backed by more than ten police, entered
the station's premises and seized transmission equipment. Just hours after
this raid, TV Soko resumed broadcasting using backup equipment.

TV Soko was first closed down on March 27. The Yugoslav Inspector for
Radio Links attempted to seize transmission equipment from the station but
was prevented from this by Sokobanja residents who had gathered to defend
their broadcaster. After lengthy negotiations, partly aimed at securing
the safety of the inspector and avoiding a violent conflict between police
and residents, it was agreed that the station's broadcasts would be
banned, but its equipment remained in the studios. The premises were then

The justification for this first closure was that the station had operated
without a licence. TV Soko is one of a number of independent broadcasters
which tendered in the February 1998 frequency competition but received no
response to their applications.

On June 12, after the Nato attack against Yugoslavia ended, TV Soko
removed the seals from the studios and resumed broadcasting.

The station's editor-in-chief, Nebojsa Ristic, is presently serving a
one-year prison sentence after the Zajecar District Court on June 6 upheld
a one-year prison sentence handed down to Ristic in the Sokobanja
Municipal Court on April 23. The Zajecar District Court dismissed an
appeal against the sentence and conviction for the criminal act of
disseminating untrue information under Article 218 of the Criminal Code of
Serbia. The charges related to Mr Ristic displaying a "FREE PRESS, MADE IN
SERBIA" poster in the station's studios in protest at the repression of
the free press in Serbia.

The rulings of both courts cite criminal acts abolished by the Serbian
Constitutional Court on December 17, 1991 and are therefore illegal as
they are based on a regulation which is contrary to the constitution. This
article's contradiction of international guarantees of freedom of
expression has been emphasised in almost every report on the human rights
situation in Yugoslavia and Serbia.

Up to June 25 a number of ANEM affiliates had received warnings from the
Yugoslav Telecommunications Ministry that they would be prosecuted if they
failed to pay fees for the use of their frequencies. Payment of the
exorbitant fees may force the closure of stations as they have little or
no opportunity to generate revenue in the current dire economic situation.

The Yugoslav Telecommunications Ministry and the Yugoslav Government had
previously passed a decree exempting from payment of the fee those
broadcasters which had put their equipment "at the service of the
country's defence". The latest warnings from the ministry disregard the
fact that ANEM's affiliates have been forced to put their resources at the
service of the Yugoslav Army and Radio Television Serbia.

RTV Devic in Smederevska Palanka, an ANEM affiliate, has already been
banned with the justification that it had not paid the fee. Other
broadcasters, unable to raise the fee, face a similar fate.

It is of particular concern that there is no legal basis for demanding
frequency fees from stations which have been denied a licence by the
authorities, despite having met all the requirements of the February 1998
round of frequency bids.