Committee to Protect Journalists
Country Report: Yugoslavia
As of December 31, 1998

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War between the Serb-controlled Yugoslav government and the ethnic Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) erupted in March in the province of Kosovo, with repressive repercussions for media throughout Yugoslavia.

Covering the Kosovo war has been an assignment fraught with danger and frustration. Foreign correspondents whose reports were deemed "anti-Serb" were denied reentry visas by the Serb government. Local journalists were blocked and harassed so routinely at military checkpoints that by summer most would not travel into conflict zones unless they were accompanying foreign news teams. But the presence of foreigners was no guarantee of protection; they, along with local journalists, encountered problems in the field that ranged from intimidation to violence to kidnapping.

The KLA was responsible for one of the most serious incidents -- the October kidnapping of two journalists from the Yugoslav state news agency Tanjug who were later released. But the vast majority of incidents of harassment, intimidation, and physical assault documented by CPJ in Kosovo were carried out by the Serbian special police and military.

Elsewhere in Yugoslavia, the Kosovo war generated a fresh wave of Serbian government repression against independent media that dared challenge the hate speech and nationalist policies of President Slobodan Milosevic's regime.

Among the government's primary targets was the Association of Independent Electronic Media (ANEM), a network of 50 stations whose radio and television broadcasts reach 80 percent of Serbia's population. ANEM's flagship station, Radio B92, has long been a thorn in Milosevic's side, though in the government's May tender of broadcast licenses B92 was one of the few independent stations to be granted even a temporary right to broadcast. Dozens of unlicensed independent broadcasters stayed on the air even after the government shut down two ANEM radio stations in the summer for operating without licenses.

But in September, when NATO threatened air strikes against Belgrade to force Milosevic to withdraw his forces from Kosovo, the Serbian government used the West's threats to turn on independent journalists with a vengeance. A series of government statements in early October accused independent journalists of being spies, and on October 5 the Serb information minister ordered independent stations to stop rebroadcasting Serb-language programs from the Voice of America and other foreign services. The ban was formalized on October 8 in a temporary decree that also forbade articles or broadcasts deemed by the government to foment "fear, panic and defeatism" during the showdown with NATO.

One day after the decree took effect, a CPJ delegation met with then-U.S. Assistant Secretary of State John Shattuck to urge strong U.S. opposition to the crackdown. The State Department subsequently circulated a CPJ statement to U.S. ambassadors in Europe, urging them to work with their European counterparts to orchestrate diplomatic protests of the Serb government's actions.

Milosevic continued to lash out at the independent press after agreeing on October 13 to pull Serb forces out of Kosovo and allow international monitors into the region. By October 15, the government had shut down two ANEM radio stations and three independent Belgrade newspapers, Danas, Dnevni Telegraf, and Nasa Borba. On October 20, the Serbian government adopted a new Law on Public Information that codified much of the earlier temporary decree, set crippling fines for violations, and eliminated basic judicial rights for those accused of violations.

Some independent Serb journalists said that the Western powers, led by the United States, were so eager for a diplomatic resolution of the Kosovo conflict that they had decided to look the other way while Milosevic decimated the independent media. Their sense of abandonment intensified as the new law led to more punitive action and crippling fines against the owner of Dnevni Telegraf and the weekly Evroplijanin.

On December 4 and 5, ANEM held a conference in Belgrade titled "Media for a Democratic Europe." Delegations from CPJ and other press freedom organizations met to assess the ongoing threat to the survival of Serbia's independent media. While journalists at the conference were buoyed by the support, most believed that the Serb government's persecution of the press would not ease as long as Milosevic remained in power.
Attacks on the Press in Yugoslavia in 1998
Date Journalist Incident
12/04/98 Nikola Djuric, City Radio Legal Action
11/17/98 Monitor Harassed, Legal Action
10/23/98 DaTePress Legal Action
10/23/98 Slavko Curuvija, Evropljanin Legal Action
10/23/98 Ivan Tadic, Evropljanin Legal Action
10/23/98 Dragan Bujusevic, Evropljanin Legal Action
10/20/98 All media Censored
10/18/98 Nebojsa Radosevic, Tanjug Imprisoned
10/18/98 Vladimir Dobricic, Tanjug Imprisoned
10/15/98 Nasa Borba Censored
10/13/98 Dnevni Telegraf Harassed
10/13/98 Danas Harassed
10/13/98 Nasa Borba Harassed
10/09/98 Radio Senta Censored
10/08/98 All media Censored
10/07/98 Dejan Anastasijevic, Vreme Harassed
10/06/98 All independent media Harassed
10/06/98 All independent broadcasters Censored
09/30/98 All independent media Harassed
08/21/98 Djuro Slavuj, Radio Pristina Missing
08/21/98 Ranko Perenic, Radio Pristina Missing
08/18/98 City Radio Censored
07/06/98 Reuters TV cameraman Harassed
07/06/98 Kurt Schork, Reuters Attacked
07/06/98 Anthony Lloyd, The Times Attacked
07/06/98 All journalists in Kosovo Threatened
07/01/98 Radio Kontakt Censored
06/22/98 Neils Brinch, TV2 Denmark Attacked
06/22/98 Heinrik Gram, TV2 Denmark Attacked
06/22/98 Unidentified Albanian interpreter, TV2 Denmark Attacked
05/16/98 All Serbian Media Harassed, Censored
04/21/98 TV Pirot Censored
03/19/98 Taras Protsyuk, Reuters TV Attacked
03/19/98 Michel Rouserez, RTBF, Belgian TV Attacked
03/10/98 Gruica Spasovic, Danas Harassed
03/10/98 Manjo Vucotic, Blic Harassed
03/10/98 Slavko Curuvija , Dnevni Telegraf Harassed
03/10/98 Lyubinka Milintic,Demokratija Harassed
03/10/98 Ivan Mrcan, Nasa Borb Harassed
03/02/98 Agron Bajrami, cultural editor, Koha Ditore Attacked
03/02/98 Veton Surroi, editor in chief, Koha Ditore Attacked
03/02/98 Staff of Koha Ditore Attacked, Threatened, Harassed
03/02/98 Fatos Berisha, Koha Ditore Attacked

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