Milosevic Enlists Army

Slobodan Milosevic is calling on the army to help him muzzle political dissent.

Milosevic Enlists Army

Slobodan Milosevic is calling on the army to help him muzzle political dissent.

The Military Court in Nis set a dangerous precedent by sentencing independent journalist Miroslav Filipovic to seven years in jail.

The verdict shows the regime has changed tactics in its repression of the independent media, switching from fining those it deems to have caused offence to pressing charges against them.

The reason Filipovic is so dangerous to the regime is that he is one of the first journalists in Serbia to have dared to openly write about the conduct of Yugoslav Army in Kosovo during last year's NATO intervention.

The regime wants to keep the army's actions under wraps because if they were ever exposed state officials and senior military officials would be held responsible. These powerful people are scared of Filipovic - and his conviction is their revenge.

The NATO intervention ended Serbian sovereignty over Kosovo, badly damaged the country's infrastructure and further impoverished the population. But probably the worst thing of all was that it led to an undeclared state of emergency in Serbia.

This regime has suspended human and constitutional rights. Political opponents are persecuted; independent media are closed, and journalists are harshly punished.

In today's Serbia, anyone who walks the street with the "Otpor" insignia is either arrested or beaten up.

Probably the worst recent example of regime excess took place at a European Champions Cup football match between Red Star Belgrade and the Georgian club, Torpedo. Home fans were beaten up by special units of Milosevic's police force after they sang a popular chant, "Save Serbia and kill yourself, Slobodan".

The trial of Miroslav Filipovic is clear proof that Serbia has been plunged into a state of emergency. Fearful of losing power, Milosevic

has put his faith in his generals - who now increasingly interfere in civilian affairs. We seem to be heading for a new type of dictatorship, something akin to a Latin-American style junta

The generals are regularly paraded at meetings of the Socialist Party of Serbia, SPS, and the Yugoslav Left,JUL, and are often seen at public functions. The military leadership issues political statements in which it threatens "traitors" like Montenegrin President, Milo Djukanovic, or indeed anyone who's critical of Slobodan Milosevic.

With the Filipovic conviction, the army's threats have become reality.

Foreign media have been claiming for some time that the army is hiding the ex-commander of Bosnian Serb forces, Ratko Maldic, as well as others indicted by The Hague. The increasingly close relationship between the federal high command and Milosevic is founded on their need to protect each other from the war crimes tribunal.

Miroslav Filipovic is a brave man and a good journalist. He has already

become a symbol of resistance against the dictatorship and the fight for free speech. He's highly respected even by those who believe the Goebbels-like regime propaganda that claims he is a spy.

Filipovic's hangmen, military prosecutor Captain Aleksandar Kalicanin and judge Colonel Radenko Miladinovic, have been dishonoured - serving a dictator for a couple of thousand dinars and a handful of privileges.

The numerous fines imposed on publishers and broadcasters signalled the that independent media's willingness to defy the infamous and uncivilised Law on Public Information. The conviction of Filipovic shows the authorities, however, are not prepared to brook further dissent.

Following the conviction of Filipovic, Colonel Miladinovic underlined the regime's intentions,"Filipovic was publishing things that other have published. We have, however, to start somewhere and after Filipovic, the others will have their turn."

Goran Vesic, a Democratic Party deputy in the Belgrade Assembly, lives in exile in Montenegro. He was sentenced to two years imprisonment in Serbia for draft-dodging.

Serbia, Kosovo
Support our journalists