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Saturday, 7 October, 2000, 16:25 GMT 17:25 UK
The night my country changed
Man reading Politika newspaper
Government run newspapers change their tune
Dusan Radulovic, a Belgrade journalist, resigned as editor-in-chief of government-controlled Radio Belgrade early on in the Milosevic years. Like others who refused to toe the government line, he worked for the independent Belgrade-based radio station B2-92, which broadcast continuously via the internet even when its offices were seized.

Here he describes the moment this week when he was offered his old job back and knew for sure that his country had changed:

Alexander, a 53-year-old theatre critic with Radio Belgrade, was sacked on the eve of the opposition's big day of protest in Serbia.

He and 35 other journalists had signed a petition asking for changes in the radio's editorial policy.


Everything that has happened in Serbia in the last ten days, even the last ten years, is over.

He was given the bogus explanation that he "hadn't come to work for five days" and told that he, along with all the others who signed the petition, had been dismissed with immediate effect.

"Don't worry, it won't last long. That just means they are panicking," I told him. This was more a case of wishful thinking on my part than a confident prediction of what would happen over the next 24 hours.

Public protests

On Thursday morning I walked among the hundreds of thousands of people who gathered in the square in front of the parliament building in the centre of Belgrade.

It didn't surprise me that so many people from all over Serbia had answered the opposition's call to protest over the government's refusal to accept the election victory of opposition leader Vojislav Kostunica.

Scaling the parliament building
Mass demonstrations end Mr Milosevic's rule

"It's now or never," said a young man brandishing the flag of Belgrade's Red Star football team. He was looking for policemen, and it was clear to me he was ready for a fight.

He was used to such confrontations, which take place after most of Red Star's home matches in the city.

Ready to fight

But this time he wasn't the only one ready to fight. There were a lots of youngsters in the square with wooden sticks or baseball bats in their hands.

The first clashes started at about noon after riot police fired tear gas into the crowd. But when people began fighting back and burning police cars it became clear the police were not prepared to respond.

"Look at my war trophy," said Ivan (25) waving a police baton.

He didn't have to fight for it. A policeman had simply thrown it down and walked away, unwilling to fight against the people.

By six o'clock in the evening, firemen had already put out the blaze in the parliament building which had been stormed a few hours earlier, and were still tackling the flames in the basement of the main TV station, RTS.

Pro-Kostunica celebrations
Celebrations are continuing in the Yugoslav capital

On the streets people were carrying telephones, computers, and even stylish chairs looted from the parliament building.

Celebration

It was a time for celebration. Opposition leaders had already announced their victory and only one question was still to be answered. Where was Milosevic? But that night nobody seemed to care.

"Let's have a drink and wait for the morning newspapers," I said, knowing that we would see a complete change from the government-controlled newspapers we had grown used to.

At two o'clock in the morning my mobile phone rang. I thought the message was a joke. It said I should "come to my old office".

I resigned my post as editor-in-chief at Radio Belgrade nine years ago, at a time when the troubles were just starting in the "old" Yugoslavia.

Then nationalism in all parts of country was rife, and my views did not coincide with those of Milosevic and his followers.

But this message, received a few hours after the uprising, was a clear signal to me that everything that has happened in Serbia in the last ten days, even the last ten years, is over.


At The Hague

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18 May 00 | Europe
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