Yugoslav 'Information Law' Strikes Again

Two daily papers and Studio B TV have again been penalised under Serbia's Information Law - for reporting claims that the state had a part in an alleged bud to assassinate opposition leader Vuk Draskovic.

Yugoslav 'Information Law' Strikes Again

Two daily papers and Studio B TV have again been penalised under Serbia's Information Law - for reporting claims that the state had a part in an alleged bud to assassinate opposition leader Vuk Draskovic.

Thursday, 10 November, 2005

The Serbian dailies Blic and Danas along with Radio Television Studio B have again been penalised by the contentious Law on Information - this time for reporting claims of government complicity in the alleged assassination attempt on opposition leader Vuk Draskovic.


The three media outlets have been heavily fined by the authorities for breaking the law and reporting a statement from the Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO) claiming government involvement in the October 3 road incident on the Belgrade-Cacak highway which left SPO Leader Draskovic injured and four of his colleagues dead.


The statement accused the Serbian State Security Service chief Rade Markovic and the chief of SDB in Belgrade, Milan Radonjic of masterminding the "assassination" attempt.


For reporting the statement, Danas was fined 360,000 Dinars, Blic - 310,000 Dinars and Studio B 300,000 Dinars.


The SPO accused the ruling coalition in Serbia of not wishing to allow change "by peaceful and democratic means". Furthermore the SPO claimed that the regime was using "naked state terrorism" to "realise its anti-state, anti-national, anti-democratic and anti-human goals."


The SPO claimed that their investigative legal team had established that the so-called "killer truck" [see BCR 98] which collided with the two SPO cars had belonged to the SDB since 1998.


The statement went on to cite the "well-known fact" that the Yugoslav United Left (JUL) party led by Milosevic's wife Mira Markovic, and Vojislav Seselj's ultra-nationalist Serbian Radical Party "have placed the SDB under their direct control".


The statement concluded, "these two parties are turning the SDB into their personal terrorist organisation". The SPO also claimed the JUL and SRS had ordered and planned the murder of Slavko Curuvija, owner of the Dnevni Telegraf newspaper and the attempted murder of Zeljko Kopanja, owner of Nezavisne Novine in Banja Luka.


The SPO accusations continued with claims that the SDB was using "the most expensive technical equipment" to systematically block Studio B broadcasts. The SDB was also accused of "maltreating local officials and citizens, beating up students during protests, stifling the free media, as well as provoking civil war in Montenegro."


Blic, Danas and Studio B reported the SPO allegations in full. Ognjen Pribicevic, an advisor to Draskovic, said the latest action SPO stands behind the "disputable statement" and labeled the latest fines a "continuation of state terrorism that not only hovers over the media, but above the whole of Serbian society."


The editor-in-chief of Blic, Veselin Simonovic, said "the primary task of the media is to offer all information to the readers, citizens and voters."


"The activities of the political parties, especially of the parliamentary parties, make up the political life of this country and its people. We abide by the belief that statements should be reported without being checked out. We are aware that by failing to report such statements we would violate the right of readers to be informed", Simonovic said.


Instead of prosecuting the SPO and dragging all the allegations through the courts, the SRS has taken the easier route, filing charges against the three newsrooms, which have no line of defence under the terms of the rigid Law of Information.


The SRS have withdrawn from an SPO inspired session of the Serbian Parliament Security Committee set to discuss the work of the SDB.


Dragan Kojadinovic, editor-in-chief of the Studio B, publicly claimed Seselj personally threatened him. "Seselj told me over the telephone that I too will be run over by a sand truck," Kojadinovic said on a TV programme.


"The punishing of the independent media for reporting a statement by an opposition party represents the death of parliamentarianism in Serbia," Dragoljub Micunovic, president of the Democratic Centre said. "Public opinion should react energetically and demand the lifting of the Law," Micunovic added.


According to Nebojsa Covic, president of Democratic Alternative, the authorities have with this trial started the "decontamination" of the media that Mira Markovic has recently called for (See BCR 99).


Milenko Vasovic is a regular contributor to IWPR from Belgrade.


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