Post-Soviet Media Law & Policy Newsletter

Issue 39     Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law     September 30, 1997 


I.  Sfor troops block Bosnian Serb TV propaganda.

    Sfor international peacekeepers on Wednesday occupied and closed four Bosnian Serb transmitters in Bosnia to block TV and radio propaganda broadcast on the orders of Serbian hardliners in Pale near Sarajevo.
    The raid in the eastern segments of Serbian-controlled territory Wednesday morning follows the violation of an agreement between the Serbs and international community that sought to avoid incitement against the Dayton peace process, SFOR spokesmen said.
    NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana told reporters in Maastricht, Netherlands, that the move was necessary to safeguard peace in Bosnia. It had demonstrated NATO’s determination “to support those who support Dayton and to react swiftly and robustly against those who seek to obstruct the peace process,” he said.
    Solana said SFOR’s action was aimed at ensuring that the media in the Bosnian Serb territory “reflects international norms of professional media conduct and fully supports the goals of the Dayton (peace) agreement.”
    The transmitters, belonging to Bosnian Serb (SRT) radio and television, were occupied because of ongoing “distortion of the truth,” United Nations spokesman Aleksander Ivanko said in Sarajevo.
    Sfor spokesman Major Jan Joosten said the peace force received on Tuesday “a request from the chief coordinator of the Bosnia peace force Carlos Westendorp for military action against SRT”.
    Solana said a clear and final warning had been given to SRT on September 10. However, the “unacceptable treatment” of a press conference held by the chief prosecutor of the U.N. war crimes tribunal Louise Arbour prompted the action.
    Ivanko told a news conference that several parts of a video footage of the Arbour news conference had been “seriously manipulated” by SRT editors.
    Arbour had criticized Serbian leaders for refusing to extradite former Serbian leader Radovan Karadzic and other suspected war criminals. The tape had been provided by western organizations in Sarajevo to SRT for broadcasting purposes.
    The NATO supreme commander for Europe, General Wesley Clark, said nobody was killed or injured with the seizure of the four transmitters. He said the intention was to restore broadcasting speedily with new employees.
    “At the moment programmes can only be broadcast from Banja Luka (the base of Bosnian Serb Biljana Plavsic),” a senior NATO officer said Wednesday.
    The Bosnia power struggle between Plavsic and Pale hardliners headed by Karadzic had already led to separate control of radio broadcasting in Banja Luka.
    Westendorp during the last few months repeatedly threatened to shut down Bosnian Serb stations if the hardliners in Pale did not cease broadcasting propaganda against western organizations in Bosnia-Herzegovina on their radio and television.
    The Bosnian Serbs reacted to the closing of the stations with strong criticism. “It is an unprecedented rape of press freedom in the civilized world,” the director of (SRT), Miroslav Toholj was quoted as saying by the Belgrade news agency Beta.
    Toholj said the employees would start a hunger strike and other methods of “civic resistance” against the measure.
    In another development opposition groups in Belgrade announced a resumption of protests.
    “Despite the police brutality, we will gather at the Republic Square at 20.00 hours (local time) to protest against the illegal seizure of the Studio B station,” Cedomir Antic, from the anti- government student club, told Radio B 92.
    The Democratic Party of Zoran Djindjic, who was dismissed from his mayoral post in Belgrade on Tuesday, and the Civic Alliance of Serbia (GSS) led by Vesna Pesic said they will join the rally.
    About 10,000 people protested Tuesday evening against the closure of Studio B, a popular local station. Police broke up the protest, beating up numerous protesters.

Deutsche Presse-Agentur, October 1, 1997

II.  High representative’s office issues statement on transmitter seizure.

[Announcer]     You are probably aware that, at the request of the high representative, Sfor [NATO-led Stabilization Force] was authorized by the NATO secretary-general and the supreme commander of allied forces in Europe to seize and control most relay stations in the Serb Republic. The action took place this morning in reaction to a grotesque misrepresentation of a news conference by Judge Louise Arbour broadcast by the Serb Radio-TV [SRT] Pale studio on Sunday 28th September.
    The recommendation of the high representative stems from the mandate determined by the Declaration of Sintra, Paragraph 70, which authorizes him to take action against any media whose allegations are in constant and blatant contradiction of the spirit and formulation of the peace agreement. The apology and rerun of the interview with Judge Arbour on SRT, Studio Pale, was welcome but, frankly, came too late. Our statement of last night makes it clear that we are considering further steps.
    The international community will not tolerate nonimplementation of agreements between parties and organizations in the Serb Republic the way it was done by the SRT Pale studio in its recent programme. Over the last couple of months we have issued many warnings. The last of them was a joint letter on 10th September by the high representative and Sfor commander to Mr Krajisnik in his capacity as chairman of the SRT main committee.
    The misrepresentation of the interview with Judge Arbour, an international judge of high standing, was the last straw. The population of the Serb Republic has the right to hear the truth in fair and balanced reports on television and other media. Bearing that in mind, we are determined to provide a democratic and balanced public television service in the Serb Republic in keeping with the goals and provisions of the Dayton Agreement.

Bosnian Serb Television, Banja Luka, October 1, 1997

III.  Bosnian Serbs pledge to cooperate over media access to avoid jamming.

    The U.S. administration is considering to broadcast American network shows on Bosnian Serb televisions, the state department said October 2. The goal is to offer shows “that might make the content of broadcasting more attractive to viewers,” said State Department spokesman James Foley. Four Bosnian-Serb transmitters were forced by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) troops on Wednesday to shut down broadcasts from the station’s base in Pale. Foley said he believes international mediators in Bosnia are attempting to come up with a system to permit broadcasts throughout Bosnia that would not be ethnically based. The system would be “free of the monopolizing influence of political parties” and provide access to a wide variety of views, he said.

Xinhua News Agency, October 2, 1997

IV. Opposition mayor of Yugoslav capital ousted; Balkans: Foes of pro-democracy movement join to sack independent TV staff; Thousands protest.

By Tracy Wilkinson

    Zoran Djindjic, the first non-Communist mayor of Yugoslavia’s capital since World War II and a prominent opposition leader, was ousted Tuesday in an apparently fatal blow to the fledgling pro-democracy movement in his country.
    Djindjic immediately branded his removal from the Belgrade post an illegal coup. An unsavory alliance of nationalist extremists, Socialists loyal to President Slobodan Milosevic, and some of Djindjic’s former allies joined to sack the mayor after he had spent less than eight months in office.
    They also fired the editorial management of Belgrade’s only opposition television station, a move that outraged students and foes of Yugoslavia’s repressive regime. In protest, thousands of demonstrators filled a downtown Belgrade square late Tuesday, in a replay of the pro-democracy marches last winter that swept Djindjic to power. Chanting “Treason,” they rallied against what leaders called “dirty deals,” and clashed with riot police. Several were injured and arrested, witnesses said.
    Lila Radonjic, the ousted editor of Studio B, said she felt Belgrade returning to the dark and repressive days of 1993, when the opposition could rarely speak out without fear of physical abuse.
    “Studio B is being returned to the Socialists,” she said. “It was the only product of the will of the citizens.”
    Throughout the day, Studio B broadcast political commentators and citizens protesting the maneuvering that was going on at City Hall. And it broadcast regular calls to join Tuesday night’s demonstrators. But as soon as new editors took over, they ordered all broadcasting to be limited to music and music videos.
    Times special correspondent Zoran Cirjakovic in Belgrade contributed to this report.

Los Angeles Times,October 1, 1997

V.  Belgrade’s Studio-B editorial team resigns.

   All seven members of the editorial team of independent Belgrade television and radio station Studio B resigned Wednesday in a protest against sacking of its director and editor-in-chief, Belgrade news agency BETA reported.
    The Belgrade city council on Tuesday sacked the director of Studio B Zoran Ostojic and its editor-in-chief Lila Radonjic, and appointed Dragan Kojadinovic to both functions.
    Ostojic and Radonjic “were dismissed and criticized for their editorial policy, which means that the new team will change it, and Studio B will not be objective any more,” Beta quoted Maja Divac, one of seven editors, as saying.
    Studio B’s broadcasts can be picked up in the Belgrade region, and several privately owned TV stations throughout Serbia broadcast its programs through a network of independent electronic media in Serbia.
    Ostojic and Radonjic said they were replaced because they did not want to engage in the propaganda of Vuk Draskovic’s Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO) and refused to take part in the SPO’s political dealings with the Serbian Socialist Party, the mainstay of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic’s hold on power.
    By Wednesday afternoon, Studio B had still not mentioned a brutal police intervention on around 10,000 supporters who gathered late Tuesday to protest against the ousting of Belgrade first non-communist mayor Zoran Djindjic and the changes in the TV station.
    Djindjic was sacked by a Belgrade council alliance of supporters of his former ally Draskovic and the far-right nationalist Vojislav Seselj.

Agence France Presse, October 1, 1997

VI.  Studio B TV ordered not to report on police intervention.

By Z. Knezevic

    Following the replacement of the Studio B leadership, Dragan Kojadinovic, new director and editor in chief, ordered that only music should be broadcast for two hours. The meeting held in Republic Square, which was organized on the occasion of the replacement of Mayor Djindjic and the Studio B managing board, has not been reported in the station’s programmes. The only information was given in the 2200 [2000 gmt] newscast. Of everything that was happening in the square, Studio B viewers could only learn that the police prevented protest walks, but not that the police intervened and attacked the demonstrators.
    According to ‘Gradjanin’s’ sources, Studio B received a strict directive to keep silent about this event and to have as few reports as possible reach the public. One of the explanations for not broadcasting reports on the rally was that the material the Studio B team recorded had been lost (?or stolen). A lack of video material on an event cannot serve as an excuse for not saying what was happening in Belgrade’s streets and not reporting that the police again chased and beat Belgrade citizens who gathered to express discontent with the way changes were made in the city assembly and Studio B.

Gradjanin,, “Directive on ‘lost tapes’” October 2, 1997