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RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 4, No. 96, 00-05-18

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty: Newsline Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>

RFE/RL NEWSLINE

Vol. 4, No. 96, 18 May 2000


CONTENTS

[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

  • [01] KOCHARIAN SAYS ARMENIA SEES IRAN AS FRIEND
  • [02] CONSULTATIONS CONTINUE ON ARMENIAN CABINET
  • [03] YEREVAN DENIES DISCUSSING REDEPLOYMENT OF RUSSIAN BASES FROM
  • [04] RUSSIAN MAYAK RADIO RESUMES OPERATION IN ARMENIA
  • [05] ARMENIANS MOST PROMINENT ON MOST WANTED LIST
  • [06] U.S. SAID PRESSING ARMENIANS TO BACK KOCHARIAN ON KARABAKH
  • [07] BARONESS COX SAYS ISLAMISM THREATENS KARABAKH
  • [08] PACE TO CONSIDER ARMENIAN, AZERBAIJANI ACCESSION IN JUNE
  • [09] AZERBAIJAN'S ALIEV NOTES GOOD TIES WITH IRAN
  • [10] BAKU SIGNS ACCORDS WITH MOSCOW, SVERDLOVSK
  • [11] BAKU SEES RUSSIA PRESSURING GUUAM STATES
  • [12] TURKEY EXPANDS AID TO AZERBAIJANI ARMED FORCES
  • [13] JOURNALISTS, LAWYER INCARCERATED IN AZERBAIJAN
  • [14] AZERBAIJAN, GEORGIA REJECT RUSSIAN CHARGES
  • [15] GEORGIAN PROTESTERS CALL FOR WITHDRAWAL OF RUSSIAN TROOPS
  • [16] GEORGIANS HAVE EVIDENCE RADUEV INVOLVED IN SHEVARDNADZE
  • [17] GEORGIANS BACK INDIA FOR PERMANENT UN SECURITY COUNCIL SEAT
  • [18] GEORGIA HOPES TO BUY TANKS FROM CZECHS
  • [19] KAZAKHS TO SELL THEIR SHARE IN OIL VENTURE TO CHEVRON?
  • [20] KYRGYZ COURT GIVES SUSPENDED SENTENCE TO OPPOSITION LEADER
  • [21] TAJIKISTAN PRESIDENT MEETS UZBEK OFFICIALS
  • [22] TURKMENISTAN PRESIDENT SAYS PUTIN VISIT A DEFINING MOMENT

  • [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

  • [23] SERBIAN OPPOSITION WANTS MORE PROTESTS
  • [24] INTERNATIONAL CONDEMNATION OF SERBIAN MEDIA CLAMPDOWN
  • [25] STAMBOLIC: SITUATION AT ITS MOST DANGEROUS
  • [26] DJUKANOVIC: MILOSEVIC ACTING OUT OF WEAKNESS...
  • [27] ...WHILE MONTENEGRO STANDS FIRM
  • [28] DID KOSOVAR NEWSPAPER 'CONDEMN' SERB TO DEATH?
  • [29] ETHNIC ALBANIANS DEMONSTRATE IN TETOVO
  • [30] CROTIAN MILITARY POLICE ARRESTED FOR ANTI-SERB ACTION
  • [31] CROATIAN PARLIAMENT DEBATES AID TO SERBS
  • [32] BOSNIAN GOVERNMENT CRISIS CONTINUES
  • [33] COALITION ACCUSES ILIESCU OF ILLEGAL ACTS IN 'HOT LINE' TALKS
  • [34] BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT EASILY SURVIVES CONFIDENCE VOTE
  • [35] BULGARIA SHORTENS OBLIGATORY MILITARY SERVICE

  • [C] END NOTE

  • [36] SERBIAN AUTHORITIES CRACK DOWN ON PRIVATE MEDIA

  • [A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

    [01] KOCHARIAN SAYS ARMENIA SEES IRAN AS FRIEND

    Armenian

    President Robert Kocharian told newly appointed Iranian

    Ambassador to Armenia Muhammad Farhad Koleini that Yerevan

    views Iran not only as a neighbor but as a friendly country,

    Noyan Tapan reported on 17 May. PG

    [02] CONSULTATIONS CONTINUE ON ARMENIAN CABINET

    Prime Minister

    Andranik Markarian on 17 May continued his consultations with

    Armenian parliamentary groups in order to muster support for

    his cabinet, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Speculation

    about the negotiations was widespread in Yerevan, but

    Markarian refused to comment on the results so far. PG

    [03] YEREVAN DENIES DISCUSSING REDEPLOYMENT OF RUSSIAN BASES FROM

    GEORGIA TO ARMENIA

    Acting Armenian Defense Minister

    Lieutenant-General Mikayel Arutyunyan described as false

    recent reports of talks between Armenia and Russia on

    shifting to Armenia Russian military bases currently located

    in Georgia, Snark reported on 17 May. "Such talks are not

    being held," he said. PG

    [04] RUSSIAN MAYAK RADIO RESUMES OPERATION IN ARMENIA

    The Moscow

    radio station Mayak, closed down in September 1996 by then

    President Levon Ter-Petrosian, has resumed broadcasting in

    Armenia, Snark reported on 17 May. The station will soon

    operate 24 hours seven days a week, with two-thirds of its

    time carrying Mayak programming and one-third Armenian

    materials. PG

    [05] ARMENIANS MOST PROMINENT ON MOST WANTED LIST

    Noyan Tapan

    reported on 17 May that 22 of the 52 people recently put on

    Interpol's most-wanted list are Armenians. The agency said

    that the country with the second most-wanted number of people

    is Yugoslavia. PG

    [06] U.S. SAID PRESSING ARMENIANS TO BACK KOCHARIAN ON KARABAKH

    Following a recent visit to Washington, Victor Dallakian, the

    chairman of the Armenian parliament's Committee on State and

    Local Affairs, said that U.S. State Department officials had

    urged him and his colleagues to support President Kocharian

    on the resolution of the Karabakh issue, RFE/RL's Armenian

    Service reported on 17 May. Dallakian said that the U.S. side

    hinted that such a resolution might require a territorial

    swap, an outcome Dallakian said he and his colleagues would

    oppose. PG

    [07] BARONESS COX SAYS ISLAMISM THREATENS KARABAKH

    Baroness

    Caroline Cox told "Azg" on 17 May that Islamism threatens the

    security of Nagorno-Karabakh. She stressed that Muslims and

    Christians can live peacefully together, but those who use

    Islamic slogans to mask political goals can represent a

    threat. PG

    [08] PACE TO CONSIDER ARMENIAN, AZERBAIJANI ACCESSION IN JUNE

    The

    Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe will take up

    the issue of Armenian and Azerbaijani membership at its June

    session, ITAR-TASS reported on 17 May. PG

    [09] AZERBAIJAN'S ALIEV NOTES GOOD TIES WITH IRAN

    President

    Heidar Aliev told visiting Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister

    Morteza Sarmadi that relations between their two countries

    were on a good level and that there are numerous

    opportunities for improving them still further, Turan

    reported on 17 May. Aliev promised to participate in the 9-10

    June meetings of the Economic Cooperation Organization in

    Tehran and to meet with Iranian President Mohammad Khatami at

    that time. PG

    [10] BAKU SIGNS ACCORDS WITH MOSCOW, SVERDLOVSK

    Officials of

    Azerbaijan and the Russian Federation initialed a protocol on

    exceptions to the framework accord on free trade as well as

    on procedures of collecting indirect taxes, according to

    Azerbaijani new reports on 17 May. Meanwhile, those reports

    said that President Aliev signed an economic agreement with

    visiting Sverdlovsk Governor Eduard Rossel. PG

    [11] BAKU SEES RUSSIA PRESSURING GUUAM STATES

    Azerbaijani Foreign

    Minister Vilayat Guliev said in Kyiv that Russia will

    pressure the GUUAM countries in order to prevent the five

    member states (Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, and

    Moldova) from forming a free trade zone, Interfax-Ukraine

    reported. "But the strength of our organization is in its

    ability to resist this pressure," he said. Meanwhile, the

    ambassadors of these five states told an RFE/RL seminar in

    Washington on 17 May that they plan to expand contacts with

    one another because that reflects the specific needs of their

    populations. PG

    [12] TURKEY EXPANDS AID TO AZERBAIJANI ARMED FORCES

    Turkish and

    Azerbaijani officials on 16 May signed an accord that calls

    for Turkey to provide the Azerbaijani military with $3.1

    million in assistance, the Trend news agency reported on 17

    May. PG

    [13] JOURNALISTS, LAWYER INCARCERATED IN AZERBAIJAN

    Gunduz

    Rustamkhanly, the son of Civil Solidarity Party parliamentary

    deputy Sabir Rustamkhanly, has been arrested for taking part

    in a 29 April rally, ANS television reported on 16 May.

    Meanwhile, the Yeni Nesil Journalists' Union issued a

    statement expressing concern over the deteriorating health of

    Intibakh journalist Vagif Hajibeyli, who has been

    incarcerated since that demonstration. And Turan reported

    that prominent Baku lawyer Isakhan Ashurov was sentenced to

    five days in jail for his involvement in the same action. PG

    [14] AZERBAIJAN, GEORGIA REJECT RUSSIAN CHARGES

    The Azerbaijani

    Interior Ministry on 17 May said a report disseminated by

    Russia's Interfax news agency the previous day suggesting

    that more than 100 Chechen militants have been treated in

    Azerbaijani hospitals is not true, Turan reported. Meanwhile,

    the Georgian Interior Ministry denied Russian media claims

    that some 200 Taliban fighters are staying in Georgia near

    the Russian border, ITAR-TASS reported. PG

    [15] GEORGIAN PROTESTERS CALL FOR WITHDRAWAL OF RUSSIAN TROOPS

    NEAR BORDER

    Opposition parties staged a demonstration

    outside the Russian embassy in Tbilisi on 17 May to call for

    the withdrawal of Russian border units from the Georgian

    village of Pichvni, Prime-News reported. The two countries

    disagree as to whose territory that village is located on.

    Demonstrators said that unless their demands are met, they

    will resort to more radical forms of protest. PG

    [16] GEORGIANS HAVE EVIDENCE RADUEV INVOLVED IN SHEVARDNADZE

    ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT

    A Georgian prosecutor told Caucasus

    Press on 17 May that Chechen field commander Salman Raduev

    has given evidence to Tbilisi concerning his involvement in

    the February 1998 assassination attempt against President

    Eduard Shevardnadze. The prosecutor said that he will "not

    comment" on the details of this evidence. PG

    [17] GEORGIANS BACK INDIA FOR PERMANENT UN SECURITY COUNCIL SEAT

    Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Mengarishvili told his

    visiting Indian counterpart, Jasvant Singh, that Tbilisi

    backs New Delhi's aspirations for a permanent seat on the UN

    Security Council, Caucasus Press reported on 17 May. PG

    [18] GEORGIA HOPES TO BUY TANKS FROM CZECHS

    A source at the

    Georgian Defense Ministry told Russia's Agentstvo Voennykh

    Novostei website on 17 May that Tbilisi hopes to purchase

    several T-55 main battle tanks from the Czech Republic. PG

    [19] KAZAKHS TO SELL THEIR SHARE IN OIL VENTURE TO CHEVRON?

    The

    Kazakhstan government is seeking to sell the U.S. Chevron

    company the 5 percent stake in Tengizchevroil joint venture

    owned by Astana, an unnamed source told Interfax on 17 May.

    But the sale has not taken place because of disagreements

    over the purchase price. PG

    [20] KYRGYZ COURT GIVES SUSPENDED SENTENCE TO OPPOSITION LEADER

    The Lenin district court in Bishkek handed down a three-year

    suspended sentence to opposition politician Daniyar Usenov

    after convicting him of beating the head of a tourist agency,

    RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported on 17 May. Usenov announced

    that he will appeal what he calls a politically motivated

    charge. PG

    [21] TAJIKISTAN PRESIDENT MEETS UZBEK OFFICIALS

    President Imomali

    Rakhmonov on 17 May met with Uzbek Foreign Minister Abdulaziz

    Kamilov and Uzbek Interior Minister Zakirdzhan Almatov to

    discuss regional security and expanded cooperation between

    the two countries, Interfax reported. Prior to that meeting,

    the Tajik and Uzbek interior ministers agreed to step up

    cooperation in fighting drug smuggling, Tajik radio reported.

    [22] TURKMENISTAN PRESIDENT SAYS PUTIN VISIT A DEFINING MOMENT

    President Saparmurat Niyazov told Interfax on 17 May that the

    upcoming visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin will

    define the basis for cooperation between Russia and

    Turkmenistan for the next 10-15 years, Interfax reported. The

    two are slated to discuss gas sales and pricing policies

    along with regional security issues. PG


    [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

    [23] SERBIAN OPPOSITION WANTS MORE PROTESTS

    Goran Svilanovic, who

    heads the Civic Alliance, told Reuters on 18 May that the

    opposition plans to hold daily rallies in several cities and

    towns to protest the authorities' latest clampdown on non-

    state media (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 May 2000). At least

    dozens of protesters were injured in clashes with police in

    Belgrade the previous evening when up to 30,000 people turned

    out in support of the opposition media. Matters came to a

    head when buoyant fans of the Crvena Zvezda soccer team

    sought to join the protest and clashed with police. A

    declaration read out at the rally concluded that "this is the

    beginning of the end of the dictatorship" of Yugoslav

    President Slobodan Milosevic. Svilanovic argued that

    Milosevic is trying to "turn Serbia into a [isolated, hard-

    line] Cuba in the middle of Europe." The "Frankfurter

    Allgemeine Zeitung" commented that the government takeover of

    Studio B Television is a "direct challenge" to Vuk Draskovic,

    whose Serbian Renewal Movement owns that station. Elsewhere,

    the authorities shut down Radio Pancevo on 17 May while it

    was broadcasting coverage of the Belgrade protest. PM

    [24] INTERNATIONAL CONDEMNATION OF SERBIAN MEDIA CLAMPDOWN

    State

    Department spokesman Richard Boucher said in Washington on 17

    May that Milosevic's latest actions "smack of desperate

    Bolshevik-style oppression." Boucher added that Secretary of

    State Madeleine Albright will raise the possibility of

    unspecified "joint action" at a conference of NATO foreign

    ministers in Italy slated for later this month. In Vienna,

    OSCE Chair Benita Ferrero-Waldner and media coordinator

    Freimut Duve also condemned the moves against the non-state

    media. In Brussels, EU Commissioner Chris Patten said that he

    "deplores this cowardly crackdown on the independent Serbian

    media...carried out under cover of darkness by Milosevic's

    henchmen.... Milosevic will ultimately lose this battle," AP

    reported. PM

    [25] STAMBOLIC: SITUATION AT ITS MOST DANGEROUS

    Ivan Stambolic,

    who is the estranged former political mentor of Milosevic,

    said in Nis that Serbia is now in a power vacuum, "Vesti"

    reported on 18 May. Milosevic no longer has the situation

    under control, and the opposition is not yet ready to take

    the reins of power. The only solution is to hold elections,

    Stambolic added. He said that Otpor "is a wonderful thing"

    because it is so amorphous. "There are no leaders, so you

    don't know whom to arrest or whom to corrupt." The more the

    regime tries to crush it, the more members and supporters it

    obtains, Stambolic argued. For Milosevic to attack such an

    organization is "his last line of defense...and he knows it,"

    the Serbian leader's former mentor noted. PM

    [26] DJUKANOVIC: MILOSEVIC ACTING OUT OF WEAKNESS...

    Montenegrin

    President Milo Djukanovic said in Brussels on 17 May that

    Montenegro will continue with its plans for reform and

    democratization regardless of the increased repression in

    Serbia. He added: "This arrogant move of Mr. Milosevic is not

    a sign of strength but a sign of weaknesses. It shows the

    panic among his regime. Mr. Milosevic is conscious that his

    political rating reached the lowest point of his 15-year

    political career. But it doesn't mean that his dictatorship

    is near the end. Unfortunately, opposition in Serbia is still

    weak despite the poor rating of Mr. Milosevic," RFE/RL's

    South Slavic Service reported. Djukanovic also said that the

    opposition will find new strength from its current

    difficulties. He added that Montenegro "will continue to

    provide all possible assistance to the democratic forces in

    Serbia...for instance, with our satellite television

    program." PM

    [27] ...WHILE MONTENEGRO STANDS FIRM

    Djukanovic noted in Brussels

    on 17 May that his government will not allow Milosevic or the

    army to intimidate it in the runup to the 11 June local

    elections. He said: "We have indications that the Yugoslav

    Army may start military exercises in Montenegro precisely on

    11 June. Of course, this is Milosevic's classic psychological

    provocation, but it has backfired.... He lost both

    parliamentary and presidential elections [in the past] and it

    appears that he has not learned the lesson and will lose

    another, third election in Montenegro. We will come to terms

    with the Yugoslav Army so there will be no massive

    mobilization that could affect the outcome of the

    elections.... We will not plunge into Milosevic's traps. We

    have all the instruments to control the economic and social

    situation in Montenegro," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service

    reported. PM

    [28] DID KOSOVAR NEWSPAPER 'CONDEMN' SERB TO DEATH?

    The local

    Albanian-language daily "Dita" recently published an article

    alleging that Serbian UN worker Petar Topoljski committed

    atrocities against Kosovars during the 1999 conflict. UN

    officials are investigating the possible role of the article

    in the recent murder of Topoljski (see "RFRE/RL Newsline," 17

    May 2000). An unnamed international official told Reuters

    that printing such an article about a specific individual in

    Kosova is equivalent to "signing the death warrant" for that

    person. UN officials promised to increase security for their

    Serbian employees and expressed fears that some Serbs might

    quit their jobs and leave Kosova. PM

    [29] ETHNIC ALBANIANS DEMONSTRATE IN TETOVO

    More than 3,000

    Albanians marched in the western Macedonian town of Tetovo to

    protest government plans to close the controversial private

    Albanian-language university there. University rector Fadil

    Sulejmani accused the OSCE's Max van der Stoel and the ethnic

    Albanian politicians in the Macedonian government of allying

    themselves with the Macedonian leadership at the expense of

    the university. Van der Stoel, who is the high commissioner

    for questions involving ethnic minorities, has proposed

    setting up a legal multilingual university to replace the

    private one. His proposal ensures that graduates will have

    completed practical programs such as teacher training or

    business management, as well as broad ones in European

    studies, rather than take degrees in Albanian studies, as was

    the case for many years at Prishtina University. PM

    [30] CROTIAN MILITARY POLICE ARRESTED FOR ANTI-SERB ACTION

    A

    police spokesman said in Zagreb on 18 May that five military

    police have been arrested for badly damaging an anti-fascist

    World War II monument in the mainly Serbian village of Veljun

    near Slunj in the Kordun area. The men broke up the monument

    with their hands the previous day, "Vecernji list" reported.

    It is unclear whether they will face criminal charges, dpa

    reported. Prime Minister Ivica Racan said that "democratic

    Croatia condemns this barbaric act of destroying [sic.] anti-

    fascist monuments. We will demand an investigation." He added

    that the men's military superiors will be held responsible

    for the five men's actions, AP reported. The incident in

    Veljun is the latest in a series of recent actions by right-

    wingers aimed at destabilizing the government. PM

    [31] CROATIAN PARLIAMENT DEBATES AID TO SERBS

    The parliament on

    18 May discussed a government proposal to extend financial

    assistance for repairing war-damaged homes to members of the

    Serbian minority, "Jutarnji list" reported. At present,

    Croats qualify for such aid but not Serbs. The proposal would

    extend assistance to all but 25 Serbs whom the authorities

    have indicted for war crimes. Legislators from the Croatian

    Democratic Community (HDZ) of former President Franjo Tudjman

    charged that the draft law would "give reparations to those

    who destroyed Croatia" and "equate Croats expelled from their

    homes [during the 1991-1995 conflict] with those who expelled

    them." Istrian deputy Damir Kajin said that the destruction

    of the Serbian homes was politically motivated and should

    never have happened in the first place, AP reported. PM

    [32] BOSNIAN GOVERNMENT CRISIS CONTINUES

    The three-man joint

    presidency failed on 17 May to agree on a new prime minister,

    thereby raising the possibility that the crisis surrounding

    Bosnia's fragile joint government could continue for some

    time. Serbian presidency member Zivko Radisic recently

    proposed his fellow Socialist Party member Tihomir Gligoric

    for the job, but Muslim member Alija Izetbegovic blocked the

    move on the grounds that the international community regards

    Gligoric as an ally of Milosevic and will not work with him.

    Radisic will propose another Serbian candidate before the end

    of the month, "Oslobodjenje" reported. PM

    [33] COALITION ACCUSES ILIESCU OF ILLEGAL ACTS IN 'HOT LINE' TALKS

    WITH KREMLIN

    Coalition deputies on the Chamber of Deputies'

    Defense Commission, which is investigating talks between the

    regime of former President Ion Iliescu and the Kremlin on a

    secret "hot line," have accused former top officials of

    illegal procedures in negotiations, Mediafax reported on 17

    May. Twelve deputies said negotiations on the Bucharest-

    Kremlin secret line were approved only by Iliescu,

    presidential defense adviser Vasile Ionel, and Special

    Telecommunications Service Director Stefan Coman. According

    to the deputies, the agreement should have been approved by

    the country's Supreme Defense Council and the parliament

    should have been informed about the talks. Deputy Mihai

    Gheorghiu of the ruling National Peasant Party Christian

    Democratic said the investigation showed a "concentrated and

    intense effort" from the Romanian side in signing the

    agreement. The preliminary report needs to be approved by the

    Defense Commission. The "hot line controversy" was triggered

    by an article published in the Russian publication "Zavtra"

    and resulted in a political uproar in March. ZsM

    [34] BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT EASILY SURVIVES CONFIDENCE VOTE

    A no-

    confidence vote in the cabinet of Premier Ivan Kostov failed

    on 18 May, Reuters reported. Only 67 of the 216 legislators

    present voted for the measure, while 133 voted against it.

    Kostov said the vote "is a sign of additional confidence in

    the government." He added that "it will enable us to follow

    irrevocably our policy against corruption and crime, the

    policy of reforms and memberships talks with the EU." The

    motion was initiated by the Bulgarian Socialist Party, which

    accuses Kostov of allowing corruption at top levels of

    government and of failing to bring corrupt officials to

    trial. An austerity program implemented by Kostov has

    increased unemployment, lowered living standards, and brought

    the government's popularity ratings to an all-time low. PB

    [35] BULGARIA SHORTENS OBLIGATORY MILITARY SERVICE

    Lawmakers have

    voted to reduce mandatory military service for 18-year-olds

    from one year to nine months, AP reported on 17 May. The

    change takes effect on 1 October. Those with university

    degrees will serve just six months. Bulgaria also introduced

    an alternative military service program last year. In other

    news, hundreds of school teachers staged a one-hour warning

    strike on 17 May to protest unpaid wages. The strikes took

    place at schools in Pernik and Ruse. The teachers, who have

    not been paid in three months, threatened an all-out strike

    if they do not receive their wages by 23 May. PB


    [C] END NOTE

    [36] SERBIAN AUTHORITIES CRACK DOWN ON PRIVATE MEDIA

    By Jolyon Naegele

    In the early hours of 17 May, Serbian police raided

    the premises of the opposition-controlled Studio B radio and

    television as well as those of independent Radio B2-92,

    student Radio Index, and the tabloid daily "Blic."

    The police did not shut down the stations but

    severely limited their news broadcasts, forcing Studio B to

    broadcast news from government radio and the news-oriented

    B2-92 to replace newscasts with music.

    All four media outlets are housed in the same high-

    rise building, Beogradjanka, in front of which more than 100

    opposition supporters blocked traffic on 17 May to protest

    the night-time police raids.

    Deputy Serbian Prime Ministers Vojislav Seselj of

    the Serbian Radical Party and Milovan Bojic of the Party of

    the Yugoslav Left (led by Yugoslav President Slobodan

    Milosevic's wife, Mirjana Markovic) have issued a statement

    saying the Republic of Serbia has taken control of Studio B.

    They allege that the station "frequently called for the

    toppling of the constitutional order and rebellion against a

    legally elected government."

    The director and editor-in-chief of Studio B, Dragan

    Kojadinovic, described the crackdown as a virtual state of

    emergency and "state-organized robbery, without any legal

    basis." He noted that the police burst into Studio B and took

    over the entire premises. "A few hundred plainclothes

    policemen--security people--were at the scene," he continued.

    "They literally brought busloads of police, who entered the

    building and broke into our offices, and practically took

    over Studio B." After occupying Studio B's Belgrade offices,

    the police proceeded to seize the station's branch office at

    Mladenovac, and its transmitters, he added.

    Opposition Social Democratic Party leader Vuk

    Obradovic, for his part, described the crackdown as "a

    declaration of war on the democratic opposition and all

    democratic Serbia."

    Studio B belongs to the Belgrade city government,

    which in turn is controlled by the opposition Serbian Renewal

    Movement and is the main media outlet for the party's leader,

    Vuk Draskovic. The station has a range encompassing half of

    Serbia. Belgrade municipal government spokesman Aleksandar

    Cotric said after an emergency session of the city council

    that street protests will be called for "all Belgraders to

    come to defend their radio and television."

    Draskovic is reported to be in Montenegro and has

    not yet commented publicly. But an adviser, Ognjen

    Pribicevic, says the crackdown is "a new means of state

    terrorism" and will have unforeseen political consequences.

    Radio B2-92 is funded by the Soros foundation and

    other private contributors.

    "Blic," with its racy, nationalist tone, has

    attracted a readership of 200,000. The newspaper's managing

    editor, Zivorad Djordjevic, is a member of the co-ruling

    Yugoslav Left party. The 17 May raid on "Blic" comes one day

    after the state-owned company that had been printing the full

    color daily announced it would no longer print it until it

    changes its editorial policy.

    B2-92 general manager Veran Matic told RFE/RL on 17

    May that the raid constitutes "a complete prohibition of

    elementary freedom of speech today in Serbia. These media

    outlets were, after all, the heart of our information sphere

    in Serbia today. The media landscape in Serbia will be

    permanently fragmented and damaged in the future if we don't

    start working again the same way as we did before."

    The Serbian opposition media has faced a series of

    shutdowns over the last 20 months for alleged anti-regime

    bias and unpaid fines. B2-92, for example, has been shut down

    three times, most recently during the NATO air strikes

    against Yugoslavia last year.

    The latest wave of closures coincides with a

    crackdown against the opposition following the 13 May murder

    in Novi Sad of the head of the provincial government in

    Vojvodina, Bosko Perosevic. The accused murderer, aged 50,

    and Perosevic, who was 43, are natives of the same village.

    Serbian authorities were quick to accuse Perosevic's

    killer, Milivoje Gutovic, of having ties with the student

    opposition movement Otpor and to Draskovic's movement. Since

    then, the police have detained Otpor and opposition activists

    in Novi Sad, Valjevo, and elsewhere. The information minister

    has threatened that anyone participating in street protests

    will face arrest. As a result, only 20,000 people showed up

    for a scheduled anti-regime protest on 15 May, which prior to

    the minister's warning had been expected to attract some

    100,000 protesters.

    But even before the Novi Sad murder Serbian

    authorities were already actively engaged in harassing

    reporters. Only last week police had detained 29 journalists.

    The opposition parties in Belgrade remain largely

    divided and public frustration with the inability of mass

    protests to induce change is breeding apathy. As a result,

    the independent news media have become perhaps the most

    potent opposition force in Serbia and the Milosevic regime's

    prime target in its bid to stay in power at all costs.

    The author is an RFE/RL senior editor based in Prague.

    18-05-00


    Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
    URL: http://www.rferl.org


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