SERBIA: Recent developments in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia

SERBIA, 31/08/2001

To: Vojislav Kostunica 

President 

Belgrade 

Federal Republic of Yugoslavia

By Fax: + 381 11 - 301 50 55  

Your Excellency,

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), an affiliate of the International Press Institute (IPI), is deeply concerned about recent developments in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

In particular, SEEMO is concerned that the new authorities in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and Serbia are still inclined to treat the media in the way that their predecessors did during the Slobodan Milosevic regime.

According to SEEMO's sources, the independent Belgrade daily Danas has been verbally attacked on several occasions by officials because of its critical reporting about the president. On 22 August, you personally attacked Danas during a public meeting in the city of Kraljevo, claiming that Danas was constantly portraying you as an "arch-devil". You were also reported as saying that the dailytreated you "far worse than it treated Milosevic in his days."

This type of communication is reminiscent of the former Milosevic regime and incompatible with a democratic society, where public officials are necessarily subject to closer scrutiny than ordinary citizens. Attacks such as this are especially dangerous in a young democracy like the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, where in the past verbal harassment against journalists has resulted in physical attacks.

SEEMO would like to remind the Yugoslav authorities that they have yet to find the killers of Milan Pantic, Slavko Curuvija and Dada Vujasinovic, journalists who were murdered in Serbia over the past years. We have also learned that there was a recent attempt to kill the general manager of a prominent Belgrade weekly, who prefers to remain anonymous. In addition, several journalists from the Belgrade daily Blic, including editor-in-chief Veselin Simonovic, have been summoned for questioning by the police during the past two months. Finally, despite continued international protest, the Criminal Defamation Law still represents a threat for journalists in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

SEEMO urges Your Excellency to do everything in your power to end the harassment and intimidation of journalists in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and reminds you that journalists play an essential role in any democratic society.

Yours sincerely,

Oliver Vujovic

Secretary General

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