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Serbia-Montenegro20 March 2003

Concern about media shutdowns under state of emergency

Reporters Without Borders expressed concern today about restrictions and closures of media outlets under the state of emergency declared in Serbia after the 12 March assassination of prime minister Zoran Djindjic.

"The state of emergency must not deprive the people of Serbia-Montenegro of their basic right to be informed or the media of their right to freely report on the crisis," said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard in a letter to Djinjic’s successor, Zoran Zivkovic. "We ask you to lift the emergency as quickly as possible and until then do everything in your power to ensure the media can do its job in normal conditions."

A 17 March decree restricting media reporting about reasons for the state of emergency and about its implementation, signed by parliament president Nastasa Micic, banned publication of news about Djindjic’s murder that was not confirmed by the government. It provided for fines of up to 500,000 dinars (8,200 euros) and suspension of the media concerned. Deputy prime minister Zarko Korac advised editors of several Belgrade media on 12 March how they should operate under the state of emergency.

Publication and distribution of the Belgrade daily Nacional was banned on 18 March for the duration of the state of emergency after it printed articles criticising the state of emergency and the measures taken under it. The paper’s publishers, NIP Info Orfej, were fined 500,000 dinars (8,200 euros).

The same day and for the same reasons, the culture and information ministry suspended distribution of the Podgorica (Montenegro) daily paper Dan. The Stampa Komerc distributing company was fined 200,000 dinars (3,300 euros). The ministry also warned the Belgrade daily Vecernje Novosti after it published an article that day headed "Small village, big rat," referring to the arrest of a suspect in the killing.

The Belgrade weekly Identitet was banned on 17 March and fined 500,000 dinars (8,200 euros) for commenting on the reasons for the state of emergency. Publisher Srdjan Mijailovic is suspected of involvement in the murder, along with Milorad Lukovic Legija, who bankrolls the paper.

The TV station RTV Mars, in the central Serbian town of Valjevo, was suspended after it broadcast music during Djindjic’s funeral and comments on him and the government. The station and its general manager were fined respectively 500,000 dinars (8,200 euros) and 100,000 dinars (1,640 euros).




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