For Immediate Release
December 7th, 1996
Leader of American Journalists Group Calls on Milosevic to Restore "Complete Press Freedom" in Serbia, Montenegro
Belgrade, Dec. 7--Kati Marton, the chair of the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), called on President Slobodan Milosevic today to cease harassment of independent news media and guarantee "complete and unrestricted press freedom" throughout Serbia and Montenegro.
"The government should call an immediate and complete halt to its gross interference with the independence of the news media," Marton said at a press conference here today. "President Milosevic should guarantee complete and unrestricted freedom of the press throughout the republics of Serbia and Montenegro from this day going forward," Marton said.
Marton's press conference was called to demonstrate support from CPJ and other Western journalists' groups for the independent radio station B92, which had been shut down for two days earlier this week by the Milosevic government. On Dec. 5, Serb authorities backed down under intense international outcry and B92 was again permitted to broadcast, although other independent radio stations are still off the air and the independent news media remains under severe government pressure. The press conference was hosted by Veran Matic, the founder and editor-in-chief of B92. Matic was a recipient of CPJ's International Press Freedom Award in 1993.
"When I first heard that B92 was being jammed, and then was taken off the air altogether, I knew that I had to come to Belgrade to show solidarity with our colleagues who are courageously attempting to cover the news under extremely difficult and risky conditions," Ms. Marton said.
"We believe that a strong international show of support is required to keep Serbia's free press alive at this critical moment," Marton said at the news conference. She called on President Slobodan Milosevic to "stop immediately your gross interference in the independent media in Serbia and cease the creation of obstacles for the legal operation of B92 and other media covering the opposition and public events in Serbia."
Marton has requested a meeting with President Milosevic.
Marton, an author and former foreign correspondent, has served as the chair of the board of directors of CPJ since 1994. She is the host of the National Public Radio program "America and the World," aired in New York on WNYC and on public radio stations across the country.
B92 and other independent news outlets in Serbia faced interference in their transmissions and were subsequently shut down by Serb authorities for two days for their coverage of massive public demonstrations rocking the Balkan nation in the wake of opposition victories in the Nov. 17 municipal elections since nullified by Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic.
The director of Radio B92 told CPJ that the government started interfering with its transmission when the station began reporting on the large daily protest marches in Belgrade and other Serbian cities last week. The government retaliated with sporadic blocking of B92's signal, then with the jamming of all programming on Nov. 28. The transmitter was shut off on Dec. 3. The station was notified by federal communications authorities that it was illegally operating "without a license." On the evening of Dec. 5, Serb authorities backed down under intense international outcry and B92 was again permitted to broadcast.
During the shut-down, B92's journalists continued to report directly from the streets of Belgrade, relaying the news through the city by telephone, electronic mail, and printed flyers, and rebroadcasting information via Voice of America. Through the Internet, B92 has been posting daily news briefs and maintaining a RealAudio broadcast on its site on the World Wide Web
Attached is a chronology of recent press freedom violations documented by CPJ in the Republics of Serbia and Montenegro and the texts of correspondence between Serbian authorities and B92.
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