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May 10, 1993
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 85

The State TV- Screen

by Ivan Radovanovic

In a program of the independent television NTV Studio B several days ago, the former prime commentator of the state television, Stefan Grubac, was asked why he no longer appeared on Television Serbia. "You'll see more of me, " he replied calmly, explaining that he had some private business to do, in other words, he simply did not have time for writing TV-commentaries.

This statement has denied the stories, according to which Grubac was complaining to his colleagues several days ago that he "was not being allowed into the television building." Yet, it is interesting that "the week of his private business" started at about the same time when the Serbian President, Slobodan Milosevic, accepted the Vance-Owen plan in Belgrade, and, then, together with the Yugoslav President, Dobrica Cosic, and the Montenegrin President, Momir Bulatovic, sent a letter to the Bosnian Serb Assembly in Bijeljina, demanding that the Serbs from over the Drina River say "yes" to this international plan.

Right after this, several other "main fists", headed by Aleksandar Ljubicic, the editor of the prime time news at 7.30 p.m., disappeared from the TV screen along with Grubac. For some time now Ljubicic, as his colleagues claim, has been openly declaring himself as a member of the Serbian Radical Party (SRS) of Vojislav Seselj. Naturally, the Belgrade public was on alert to welcome these events, with a story that the still powerful Serbian Socialist Party (SPS) has decided to purge the television of all Seselj's people. The fact that the state television has literally closed the door to the leader of the Serbian Radicals, Vojislav Seselj, himself fits in with the story perfectly.

The television employees, who wished to remain anonymous, claim that in the editing process Dragoljub Milanovic, the chief editor at Television Belgrade, would cut out from the reports for the prime time evening news everything that had to do with Seselj. According to their testimonies, Aleksandar Ljubicic stopped presenting the news at 7.30 after having refused one of Milanovic's orders, which denied the air-time to the leader of the Serbian Radicals.

Responding to these events, Vojislav Seselj has told VREME, "The media are carrying on the propaganda campaign, which hasn't been encountered here since the times of the pure communist dictatorship. They select those who will support one policy only, and, they are the ones allowed to appear on television."

Seselj has also noticed that the reports from the press conferences held by parliamentary parties have been moved to the late evening news broadcast, "the one after midnight, and that they have been given the coverage of a few seconds only." He has also said that there are no contact programs any more, where party platforms would come face to face, and, that the Serbian Radical Party feels insulted, since its reaction to the Bosnian Serb Assembly in Bijeljina was announced with the block, where the reactions by the Serbian National Revival Party and the New Communist Movement were presented.

"We shall respond to all this," Seselj added, and said, "but we are not going to announce the names of the party members and supporters who are at Television Serbia, in order to avoid causing them any harm. In any case, it is obvious that a whole lot of the top-notch editors, commentators, and journalist no longer appear in the broadcasts of the state television."

The story about the people, whose identity Seselj does not want to disclose, is one of those most complicated ones regarding the events on the state TV-screen. Some claim that Seselj has for a while now had control over most of the Radio Television Serbia journalists, while the others say that only few are members of the Serbian Radical Party.

However, what one senior journalist at Television Belgrade asserted seems to be most likely. He said that Seselj enjoys widest support among the drivers and the employees at the state television's technical department. He also believes that the main reason for this is the iron hand of Dragoljub Milanovic, who is thought to be the best chief editor the authorities could have possibly appointed for their needs. "He is a man with strong political ties, absolutely devoted to those who had placed him there," this journalists told VREME. "The fact that he has a special telephone line in his office, which is certainly not connected with Seselj's office at 1 Ohridska Street, only proves that Milanovic is not really interested in anybody else."

Many other exiles from Radio Television Serbia assess that the current journalistic team of the state TV-screen have no party preferences in particular, but are simply obedient. "They are converts", another interlocutor has told us.

But, naturally, there is the other side to the story. Namely, regardless of all, for the Radicals, alarming news which have been coming, mostly through unofficial channels, from the building at 10 Takovska Street, Seselj and his followers have been quite peaceful for a long while. Some ten days ago the journalists asked Seselj, before his usual press conference, what he made of Ljubicic's replacement, and he calmly replied, "I don't know anything about it. Ljubicic was at the party headquarters yesterday, but he didn't tell me anything."

A journalist at Television Serbia, Dragan Milutinovic, approved of Seselj's carefree answer by claiming that Ljubicic was about to present the prime time news the very same evening.

But, this never happened. Ljubicic did not anchor the news, although his report was broadcast, and that was it. Still, it was enough for many people to start contemplating that the issue boils down to "quelling of passion" and that everything could return back to normal very soon.

Two additional facts go toward supporting this thesis. Firstly, it was Ratko Dmitrovic, who had been missing until yesterday, who did a special broadcast from Pale on the participation of Milosevic, Mitsotakis, Cosic and Bulatovic in the session of the Bosnian Serb Assembly. Secondly, Stefan Grubac claimed, with no reservations, that Aleksandar Ljubicic would present the forthcoming prime time news on Saturday.

On the other hand, unofficial sources claim that the preparations for the finale of the recent events, when a number of television employees were sent on forced vacations, are underway. VREME has learned that those who are younger than 45 will have a chance to re-qualify, while those above this age limit are to be retired.

What is certain is that not a single, already tested TV-storm trooper can be found among those endangered.

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