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Saturday, 18 March, 2000, 22:36 GMT
Thousands protest at media clampdown
Demonstrators chanted slogans against Milosevic
Demonstrators chanted slogans against Milosevic
By Jacky Rowland in Belgrade

Thousands of people in the central Serbian town of Kraljevo have taken to the streets in protest after the authorities seized equipment from a local radio and television station.

The demonstrators gathered in the central square and chanted slogans against the government of President Slobodan Milosevic.

Magazines showing Studio B logo
The opposition-run Studio B has escaped closure ...
The action against the television station in Kraljevo is part of a widespread campaign against private and opposition-controlled broadcasters, who the authorities accuse of operating illegally.

Officials of the telecommunications ministry raided the transmission site on Friday, confiscating several pieces of equipment.

The authorities accused the station of not having the correct paperwork.

'Operating illegally'

The demonstration against the raid was organised by opposition parties who control the local council.

Protesters gathered in the central square of Kraljevo and chanted anti-government slogans, such as: "Slobo, go away."

... but Mr Markovic has warned the station alleged debts must be paid
Since the raid, broadcasts by the local television can be seen by only one quarter of its regular viewers.

The Ministry of Telecommunications has acted against a number of broadcasters across the country in the past week, accusing them of not having licences and of failing to pay for the use of their frequencies.

The Minister of Telecommunications, Ivan Markovic, said there were more than 200 broadcasters operating illegally.

Lawyers representing independent broadcasters say the government has deliberately kept the law on electronic media vague so that it is easy to close down radio and television stations.

Opposition leaders say the government has ordered the clampdown to silence the alternative media before elections due later this year.

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Serbia clamps down on media
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