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By the BBC's Jacky Rowland
"The stations have been a constant irritant to the authorities"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 17 May, 2000, 10:14 GMT 11:14 UK
Serbs silence broadcasters
Editor Dragan Kojadinovic
Barred: Dragan Kojadinovic is kept outside the building
Serbian police have closed down the main opposition-run television station, Studio B, and the most popular independent radio, B2-92.



This is a declaration of war on the democratic opposition and all democratic Serbia

Opposition leader Vuk Obradovic
More than 100 police in woollen masks raided the stations' central Belgrade premises in the early hours of Wednesday, seizing control of studios and broadcasting equipment.

The move comes after a top government official called for a crackdown against the Serbian opposition following the killing on Saturday of a senior official in Novi Sad that authorities blamed on the opposition.

The government said Studio B was being taken over because it was calling for the authorities to be overthrown. The station was broadcasting music and films on Wednesday morning.

Radio B2-92, which shares Studio B's channels, was also shut down as were independent newspaper Blic and the popular student radio station Radio Index, which share the same building.

However, Radio B2-92 was continuing to broadcast via satellite and was hoping to add an audio link to its website.

More than 100 opposition supporters blocked traffic in front of the building housing the four media to protest against the police action and a rally was planned for 1500 local time (1300GMT) in the city centre.


Studio B employees
Studio B workers were turned away
Dragan Kojadinovic, director and editor-in-chief of Studio B, said: "This is an attack on Studio B, but above all this is an attack on the people, this is an attack on all of their human rights."

Vuk Obradovic, head of the opposition Social Democractic Party, said the takeover "introduced a state of emergency and dictatorship in Serbia".

"This is a declaration of war on the democratic opposition and all democratic Serbia."

Crackdown

Studio B was controlled by Belgrade city hall, which in turn is currently controlled by the Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO), the largest opposition party in Serbia.


Studio B
Non-government media have been attacked
Radio B2-92 is the successor to Radio B92 which was shut down by the authorities in April last year when Nato began its bombing campaign against Yugoslavia.

Veran Matic, director of Serbia's Association of Independent Electronic Media and B2-92 general manager said: "This is the most serious assault on independent media.

"The association urges all democratic forces in Yugoslavia and all trade unions and syndicates to organise demonstrations and strikes from now on.

"Freedom of speech is a basis for democracy, and we were deprived from this basic freedom last night."

The action was the most severe in a series of moves by Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's government against non-government media, which have been hit by a series of fines and libel suits over the past few months for their reporting.

The European Union earlier this month voiced deep concern over what it said was mounting government repression of the opposition and independent news organisations.

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See also:

17 May 00 | Media reports
How free speech went off-air
03 Apr 99 | Monitoring
Serbia closes B92 radio station
18 Mar 00 | Europe
Serbia clamps down on media
13 Apr 00 | Europe
Serb media defies government
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