Serbian Authorities Alarmed by Otpor

Serbian authorities stepped up repressive actions against non-government media and activists of the Otpor (Resistance) movement in the first half of May. The Belgrade dailies Danas and Blic, the Vreme news magazine and Studio B Television were fined for allegedly violating the Law on Public Information in their coverage of the arrest of three Otpor activists in Pozarevac on 2 May. In connection with a rally planned for 9 May in Pozarevac, police detained 27 domestic and foreign journalists. The District Court in Pozarevac has instituted a judicial investigation into the three Otpor activists for the attempted murder of two members of the Yugoslav Left (JUL) party.


Crackdown on Media

On 3 May, Magistrate Milica Radosavljevic of Pozarevac ordered Studio B TV to pay a fine of 200,000 dinars (approximately US$ 9,000) and its editor in chief Dragan Kojadinovic 80,000 dinars. The misdemeanor proceedings were instituted on the basis of charges filed by Sasa Lazic, a member of JUL and participant in the Pasaz Cafe incident, who alleged that Studio B had inaccurately reported that “… Sasa Lazic rushed out of the Pasaz Cafe with a pistol in his hand and hit Momcilo Veljkovic on the back of the head with the butt.” The summons to Studio B was served at noon and the proceedings were held two hours later the same day. Magistrate Olivera Veljkovic, also of Pozarevac, on 5 May fined Blic 200,000 dinars and its editor in chief Veselin Simonovic 80,000 dinars. The weekly Vreme was also fined 200,000 dinars. That same day, Studio B was fined for the second time and ordered to pay 150,000 dinars in connection with charges filed by Vladimir Djukic, director of the Belgrade Emergency Medical Center, because of a 3 May report in which the station said that Radojko Lukovic, an Otpor activist who was arrested in connection with the Pasaz Cafe incident, had been taken from the Center “before he underwent all the necessary operations,” that “his skull is fractured, he has lost one eye and is in a very critical condition.” According to Director Djukic, doctors at the Center established that Lukovic’s nose was broken “and that there was no need for any kind of emergency procedures.” Criminal charges against Miroslav Filipovic Miroslav Filipovic of Kraljevo, correspondent for Danas and Agence France Presse and an associate of the London-based Institute of War and Peace Reporting (IWPR), was arrested on 8 May and charged with espionage and spreading of false reports by the Kraljevo Police Department. The investigating judge of the Kraljevo District Court issued a 30-day detention order for Filipovic. After being handed over to the military judicial authorities, Filipovic was released on 12 May as the military prosecutor, Colonel Stanimir Radosavljevic, notified the court that he would not request an investigation into Filipovic within the 48-hour period set by law. The indications are that Filipovic was arrested because of his articles published by IWPR on the responsibility of the Yugoslav Army for crimes against civilians in Kosovo and during thearmed conflict in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Journalists Detained

In connection with the rally planned by opposition parties and the Otpor movement in Pozarevac on 9 May, police within a period of 48 hours picked up 27 reporters in Pozarevac, on the road to the town, and in Novi Sad. Some had their video cassettes confiscated. Foreign reporters were ordered to leave the town on the grounds that their permits to stay were not in order. Mile Veljkovic, correspondent for the BETA news agency, Blic, and Deutsche Welle radio, was detained by police in Pozarevac for 24 hours, and Danas reporters Natasa Bogdanovic and Bojan Toncic for 18 hours. The following reporters were also detained: Veljko Popovic, reporter, and Imre Sabo, photo-journalist (Danas); photo-journalist Branko Belica (NIN news magazine); photo-journalist Ivan Dobricic (Nedeljni Telegraf); photo-journalist Dragoljub Zamurovic (French Gama photo agency). Police barred Milos Maslovaric, Jelena Petrovic, Novica Dabic and Pavle Jesic, all Studio B TV correspondents from Mladenovac, from Pozarevac. They were held for two and a half hours at a police checkpoint just outside the town, their video cassettes were confiscated and they were ordered to turn back. Pancevo TV cameraman Sergej Babic also had his cassettes confiscated. Milos Radivojsa, Vladimir Djordjevic, Dragoljub Petrovic of the VIN video weekly and their assistant were also prevented by police from entering Pozarevac.

In the evening of 8 May, police took Dutch reporters Jaol Vinck and David de Godfroid and their interpreter Dusan Tubic from their hotel in Pozarevac to the police station. Police then ordered them to leave the town because their papers were supposedly not in order. Gillian Sandford of the London Guardian was also taken in and then ordered to leave. Five reporters and a TV cameraman and some 20 Otpor activists who were protesting outside the local seat of the Socialist Party of Serbia in Novi Sad were taken in to the police station: Marina Frantucan (Radio Free Europe), Bojan Erdeljanov (Montenegro TV cameraman), Zarko Bogosavljevic and Dragan Gmizic (Radio 021 of Novi Sad), Jovan Djeric (Radio In), and Nenad Seguljev (Nezavisni magazine reporter).

The program of Radio B2 92 and the radio and TV programs of Studio B were electronically jammed in the afternoon and evening of 9 May. Judges and prosecutors in Pozarevac resign Two judges of the Pozarevac District Court and six prosecutors resigned in connection with Otpor. Investigating judge Bosko Papovic quit because a judicial investigation was instituted into three Otpor activists although he had found no grounds for an inquiry. District prosecutor Jova Stanojevic, who filed for the investigation, and five of his deputies also resigned, as well as investigating judge Djordje Rankovic.