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Tuesday, July 6, 1999 Published at 14:02 GMT 15:02 UK

World: Europe

Montenegro's media speaks out

Staff at Podgorica's Media Club work on their Internet news site

By BBC News Online's Fergus Nicoll in Podgorica

The media in Montenegro continue to enjoy much greater freedom than their colleagues in Serbia - despite the fact that Belgrade has maintained a strong military presence in the country.

Kosovo: Special Report
In print, on television and most recently on-line, journalists are providing impartial news and commentaries, and there is open criticism of Yugoslavia and its president, Slobodan Milosevic.

"During the Kosovo war, we faced charges in front of a military court, but we survived," said Milka Tadic, editor of Monitor news-magazine.

Momcilo Radulovic: "We have been blackmailed by Serbia and must change our passive role"
Ms Tadic said it was the first time Montenegro had not taken part in a Yugoslav military campaign. That, she said in a BBC interview, had a big impact on a country that had been "deeply nationalised".

"Of course the media had an impact on the independence movement," she said. "We want to run from Serbia and become a normal state."

Widespread Internet availability

Montenegro's newspapers have become well-known for their headlines critical of President Milosevic.

But now, with its large population of well-educated young people, the country is witnessing growing interest in on-line media.

[ image: Monitor's Milka Tadic:
Monitor's Milka Tadic: "We reported the crimes committed by the Yugoslav army"
The newest of several sophisticated web-sites, Media Club, was set up in the early days of Nato's air strikes on Yugoslavia.

Its founders, Serbs and Montenegrins, are students from Belgrade University.

Some were draft-dodgers who rejected Belgrade's conscription for the army reserve and headed for the Montenegrin capital, Podgorica.

'No government control'

"Montenegro was caught between Nato's bombs and Milosevic's threats," said Media Club's founder, Momcilo Radulovic.

"We wanted to create a quality web-site to reflect our country's politics, society and arts," he added.

Monitor's Milka Tadic: "A lot of problems and pressure from the military"
Mr Radulovic said the government had provided some help, but on condition that it did not interfere in the journalism.

"It was a moral necessity," he said. "We want to put out the information we want to put out in the way we want to do it."

The site also features contributions by adademics and independent analysts.

Media Club's bushy-bearded editor, Nune Popovic, sat at his terminal, his long hair tied back in a pony-tail.

"This is how we are fighting for our better future," he said.

"There is everything here in Montenegro - from chauvinistic, biased reporting to democratic and impartial journalism," he told BBC News Online. "Now people are asking why they have to put up with the chauvinists."

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