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Thursday, 6 July, 2000, 19:45 GMT 20:45 UK
Jailed Serb wins internet award
Miroslav Filipovic
Miroslav Filipovic faces up to 15 years in jail
A Serbian journalist was named European Internet Journalist of the Year on Thursday but was prevented from collecting the award because of his detention on charges of espionage.

Miroslav Filipovic, aged 49, was given the award by UK-based NetMedia for a report on the anguish of Serb army officers haunted by the memory of atrocities committed in Kosovo.

In Serbia journalism is currently on trial, but there are real journalists

Sasa Filipovic
This and a series of other reports published on the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) website, form the basis of the charge of espionage against him.

Experts say the case sets a dangerous precedent which could have implications for other independent journalists in Yugoslavia, many of whom write regularly for foreign publications to supplement their meagre incomes.

Mr Filipovic's award was collected by his son, Sasa, and daughter, Ivana.

"In Serbia journalism is currently on trial, but there are real journalists," Sasa said.

According to Anthony Borden, executive director of IWPR, "Miroslav Filipovic went to the cutting edge of telling the truth in Serbia and only the Internet enabled him to do that."

Military court

Journalists working for non-state-owned Yugoslav media have experienced various kinds of harassment and aggression, up to and including murder, but Mr Filipovic is the first to be accused of spying.

He has also been charged with spreading false information.

Miroslav Filipovic went to the cutting edge of telling the truth in Serbia and only the Internet enabled him to do that

Anthony Borden
Under Yugoslav law, espionage is interpreted as the collecting and sending of sensitive information to a foreign source.

IWPR says the definition of "sensitive material" is broad and discretionary, especially where military issues are concerned.

Mr Filipovic, from Kraljevo in southern Yugoslavia, has been in jail since 22 May, and is likely to be tried at a military court in the town of Nis in mid-July. He faces a possible 15-year prison sentence.

He was first seized by security officers on 8 May. They confiscated his computer hard drive, contact book, diary, passport and numerous papers.

Phone tapped

Before returning to jail he told BBC News Online that his articles for IWPR had been factual and non-political, and he rejected the charges of espionage as "senseless".

I don't know how I will live with these memories... I'm not willing to accept the collective guilt.

Serbian officer, quoted by Filipovic
"It's a nonsense. I'm accused of espionage but I signed my articles and published them on the IWPR website," Mr Filipovic said.

"A spy would hide this ... Anyone normal would realise that."

Mr Filipovic also worked for the independent Serbian newspaper, Danas, and for Agence France Presse.

His wife, Slavica, told a Serbian newspaper that police had been tapping their phone, and keeping their house under surveillance from a car parked outside their house for a month.

"He is a man whose profession is today the most dangerous in Serbia," she said.

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See also:

12 Apr 99 | Europe
Serb editor shot dead
17 May 00 | Europe
Serbs silence broadcasters
18 Mar 00 | Europe
Serbia clamps down on media
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