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March 11, 2000
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 429
Repression on the Media

The Impression of the Week

by Biljana Vasic

There have lately been three attacks on Studio B television within 24 hours.  The first attack was an armed one; it happened on Monday morning when unidentified attackers wearing the MUP uniforms, broke into one of the Belgrade Water Supply plants on Torlak Hill, where Studio B's transmission equipment was installed.  The intruders attacked two security guards, beat them, and took the equipment away.   The second attack was of a legal-financial nature and happened on the same day in court, where the Studio B enterprise was fined with 450,000 dinars to pay as punishment for breaking the Information Law, as charged by major general Branko Djuric.  The third blow came from the Minister of Telecommunications, Ivan Markovic, who sent a letter requesting Studio B TV to pay almost 11 million dinars for the temporary use of radio and television frequencies.  

During the attack on the Studio B installations on Torlak, five unidentified unmasked intruders in police uniforms, left pools of blood behind.  TV technician Dragan Lukovic was hit in the head with gun handles, while the Belgrade Water Supply guard Mirko Slavkovic was so harshly beaten that he ended up in the Urgent Medical Center with grave head injuries.  According the Studio B director Dragan Kojadinovic, the attack took place at three o'clock a.m. when Lukovic opened the gate to the official police car of the "Golf" make, assuming that the police was making a routine control visit.  First the attackers had been beating Lukovic with gun handles, and then they started beating Mirko Slavkovic whose presence at his working place came as a surprise to them.  The President of the Belgrade City Executive Board, Spasoje Krunic, stated that the intruders tied  Lukovic, covered his head with a pillow and told him not to move.  Slavkovic offered resistance asking them to explain their actions, so in half an hour he was found under the table, beaten and half-conscious.

After this brutal attack, the mysterious attackers accomplished their mission and did what they came for - they broke the equipment and took it away. (In the meantime, MUP issued a statement denying any connection with the incident, and stressing that this was a "media campaign against MUP").  One of the attackers, whom Kojadinovic considers the expert on the transmission technology, dismantled the stereo coder and discontinued the transmissions of Studio B's third channel radio program, which had broadcast B2-92's program.  He also dismantled one TV modulator and thus disrupted the broadcasting of Studio B TV on Channel 51.  

On that very same Monday, the court representatives saw to it to make Studio B's drama even more interesting, by bringing a verdict in favor of major general Branko Djuric, who wrote in his criminal charges request against Studio B that his "rights as a person were violated" due to the broadcasting of "untruthful information" during the February 26 Studio B program called "Directly."  In his request Djuric stated that during that program an "untruthful information was given that General Branko Djuric, called Buca, organized the escape of the truck driver" involved in the car accident on the Ibar highway.  It was said during the program that Djuric "must have monitored this operation in order to provide safety for the State Security Service."  It was impossible for the Studio B defense to prove, referring to the Information Law (Article 11), that this had only been the broadcasting and the reproduction of information.  To prove this, the defense brought to the court a videotape of Minister Aleksandar Vucic's  statement (of November 25, 1998 on Nis' Television) that "the duty officer or the founder of a media house cannot be charged for something you say or I say in a live transmission."

Nothing helped, even these words of Vucic.  The verdict was that Studio B had to pay a fine of 450,000 dinars - 300,000 dinars were paid by the enterprise, and 150,000 dinars by the director.  "The things happening to Studio B are telling us that they are on the road of no return.  This is one in a series of unreasonable actions, actions without any logic, reason or rules.  It is enough to listen without much attention to what they are saying and to see in what frame of mind they are," Kojadinovic said to "Vreme."  

The letter of the Federal Minister of Telecommunications, Ivan Markovic, requesting Studio B to pay some debt of 11 million dinars, is characterized by Kojadinovic as the "Turkish oppression."  He said:  "We have asked Markovic to itemize this debt for us, reminding him at the same time that a good part of Studio B's equipment was destroyed during the NATO aggression.  The question now is whether the state and the para-state media are paying the same kind of tributes.  As far as I know, they don't. (But) the City Assembly is going to pay this tax."   The City Assembly Executive Board decided at its yesterday's meeting to make a trade exchange with the federal government, which owes 120 million dinars to the City Assembly.  

 "Are the three assaults on Studio B just a coincidence?  They certainly are not a coincidence, but rather a final threat to the independent media,"  Dragan Kojadinovic said adding: "If they neutralize Studio B, they will neutralize all other independent media, too.  That is why I have invited the leaders of the united opposition parties to a meeting, at which we will try to defend the little freedom and democracy we now have, which we had achieved in the last ten years.  These achievements might easily be destroyed, and we should not let it happen."

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