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The BBC's Tom Butler
"Promised demonstrations on a daily basis"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 17 May, 2000, 21:47 GMT 22:47 UK
Clashes after Serb media raid
Rubbish bins were set on fire in the Yugoslav capital
Police have clashed with protesters in central Belgrade following the take-over of the country's main opposition media by the regime of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.

Hundreds of police wearing riot gear charged into a rock-throwing crowd of opposition supporters at a rally to protest against the early morning raid on the Studio B television station.

At least six people were reported to be injured.

The police also seized control of three other independent media outlets housed in the same building - radio broadcaster B2-92, Index Radio and the privately owned daily paper, Blic.

One woman carries on with her protest despite being injured
About 30,000 people took to the streets within hours of the media crackdown, some of them gathering in the main Republic Square to listen to a live open air news broadcast prepared by the journalists of the closed TV station.

The opposition supporters were later joined by thousands of football fans who marched to the city centre to celebrate the victory of the local Red Star Belgrade team in the Yugoslav championship.

Riot police tried to stop the two groups from meeting up, causing a stand-off that erupted into a clash.

Demonstrators shouted: "Save Serbia and kill yourself, Slobodan!"

Police move forward during the demonstration
Reports said at least five people were injured in the clash, and by Wednesday night, Belgrade's main shopping area was littered with debris, broken glass and upturned, smouldering rubbish bins.

Opposition protests were also reported in three other Serbian cities.

Some 15,000 people protested against the government in Kragujevac in central Serbia, while several hundred came out onto the streets in Novi Sad, and a few hundred in Mladenovac, south of Belgrade, where Studio B's local bureau was also seized by the authorities.

Studio B began broadcasting government-controlled news later on Wednesday. The associated independent radio channel, B2-92, said it was now concentrating on its internet service.

Kojadinovic and supporters
Studio B chief editor Dragan Kojadinovic called the raid an attack on the people
The raid followed increasing harassment of opposition activists.

Members of the radical student movement Otpor have been detained by police in several towns after the authorities denounced the group as a "terrorist" organisation.

A top government official had called for a crackdown against the opposition following the killing on Saturday of a senior official in Novi Sad that the authorities blamed on the opposition.

International condemnation

The EU's External Relations Commissioner, Chris Patten, said he deplored the "cowardly crackdown" on the independent media.

"Only a state which is terrified of the truth resorts to sending men in masks into television and radio studios."

In Vienna, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) said it would ask Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov to use his influence to "rectify the situation" in Belgrade.

A senior OSCE official, Freimut Duve, said the raid on Studio B was "aimed at basically destroying all independent media in Serbia".

Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic a long-standing critic of President Milosevic, said the raid showed the "arrogance" of Belgrade's policies.

"A dictatorial regime always tries to take control of the press," he said.

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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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