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Friday, April 2, 1999 Published at 14:24 GMT 15:24 UK


Serbia closes B92 radio station

B92 is no longer broadcasting on the Internet

The independent voice of B92, the Belgrade-based radio station, has been silenced and its premises taken over by the Serbian authorities.

Kosovo: Special Report
Since the start of the Nato air strikes on 24 March, B92 had struggled to get its message out.

The authorities seized its FM transmitter hours before the first Nato missiles were dispatched, and the station was reduced to broadcasting via satellite and the Internet.

But in the final raid on 2 April, the Serbian authorities threw out the staff, sealed the building and announced the appointment of a new pro-government station manager.

Even so, the station's editor-in-chief Veran Matic still maintained a presence on B92's web site.

In a statement just hours after the raid, Mr Matic said the closure of B92 was not an isolated incident, but part of a "wave of media repression".


[ image: The station is no longer independently controlled]
The station is no longer independently controlled
"The ban on B92 is the latest in a series of crackdowns on free media in the past week.

The wave of media repression has resulted in the closure of a large number of the members of the B92-led independent broadcasting network and all the independent press," Mr Matic said.

He added that the station's status as "the only source of alternative information in and from Serbia" had led to an unprecedented number of visits to its web site.

Some 15 million "hits" had been recorded, many from people keen to listen to B92 over the Internet.

Opposed to Nato action

But while being an independent media voice, B92 demonstrated no signs of support for the Nato attacks against Yugoslavia.

In the days before its closure, the station's web site carried a statement from Matic entitled "Bombing the Baby with the Bath Water".

"The bombing of Yugoslavia demonstrates the political impotence of US President Bill Clinton and the Western alliance in averting a human catastrophe in Kosovo," Matic said.

"The protection of a population under threat is a noble duty, but it requires a clear strategy and a coherent end game.

As the situation unfolds on the ground and in the air day by day, it is becoming more apparent that there is no such strategy.

Instead, Nato is fulfilling its own prophecy of doom: each missile that hits the ground exacerbates the humanitarian disaster that Nato is supposed to be preventing."

Complaint about Cook sound bites

The station recorded an interview with the UK Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, but did not put it out. Mr Matic explained why:

"We did not broadcast it because he did not say anything new or different from what he said that day at a news conference, which we reported.

"B92 will be very happy to broadcast the answers to these questions when there are concrete answers, and not a repetition of the well-known and generalised sound bites which we have been able to hear at the briefings and news conferences given by Nato representatives or the countries taking part in the bombing, which we otherwise report on as a matter of course."

It is now unclear whether the station will again materialise, and in what form.

Its new manager, Aleksandar Nikacevic, is a member of President Slobodan Milosevic's ruling Socialist Party of Serbia.

And visitors to the B92 Internet home page are now greeted with the stark statement, in English and Serbo-Croat: "Radio B92 closed down and sealed off".

BBC Monitoring (http://www.monitor.bbc.co.uk), based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. Serbian authorities have closed down the Belgrade independent radio station B92.





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