Drazen Pantic on Wed, 23 Jul 1997 14:44:46 +0200 (MET DST)

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Serbia Awaits Elections: Right and left wing extremists against free media
and freedom of expression

Not even six months have passed since civil protests rocked Serbia and again
we find ourselves confronted with a multitude of reasons for taking our
whistles out on to the streets to protest against the government.  This time
the regime and its satellite organisations are mounting a campaign of fear
ahead of this year's elections, sending a clear message to the people that a
fresh  round of post-elction protests will not be tolerated. Presidential
and parliamentary elections in Serbia are due in the 	  next few months.
Although the elections have not even been called yet, Serbian President
Slobodan Milosevic has already  succeeded in securing a new leash of power
for himself; his transfer to the post of Yugoslav president was cemented on
June 23 without citizens casting a single direct vote.

A series of brutal events, which have marked the last few weeks, erupted in
a televised clash between Vojislav Seselj, the leader of a right-wing
extremist party very close to regime, and Nikola Barovic, a prominent human
rights lawyer last week. The two were guests on a chat show and had been
invited to discuss Seselj's party's involvement in the expulsion of a
Croatian family from their apartment. During the discussion Seselj warned
that children with Croatian citizenship would not go to school in Serbia and
accused Barovic and his late father of being "ustasha", Croatian extremists.
Barovic, who's father was also a lawyer and who died under suspicious
circumstances reacted to Seselj's inflamatory insult and threw a glass of
water in Seselj's face. The show was terminated immediately after, but it
did not end there. When the TV lights were switched off, Seselj's body guard
beat Barovic, leaving him badly injured. (Pictures of Barovic and statements
in Serbian on  http://www.xs4all.nl/opennet/barovic.html.) Police have
collected evidence, but have taken no legal action against Seselj.

This incident is a spectacular example of the brutality this regime
exercises on a daily basis. Pressure on independent media is increasing, and
a number of independent radio and TV stations are being persecuted by a
variety of inspectors, from customs to police. Many of these private
stations have recently been shut down in a government-imposed clean up

Inspectors have been arbitrarily selecting those stations with information
programmes and have placed the greatest amounnt of pressure on those
stations which re-transmit B92 programme. The inspectors that visit radio
stations have also become interested in the possible Internet activities of
those local stations, so one of the questions inspectors now ask is whether
the station is connected to Radio B92 Internet center.

Milosevic has become the third president of Federal republic of Yugoslavia
today. The ruling parties in Serbia and Montenegro have agreed that
Milosevic is the best candidate. Students gathered in front of the Federal
parliament to protest Milosevic's 're-election'. They lay old shoes in front
of the parliament to symbolise each victim of Milosevic's regime. And, as a
reminder of conflicts past, Croatia's football team will played Belgrade's
Partisanz for the first time since split of ex Yugoslavia later in the evening.

Meanwhile, Milosevic's hard line deputies in the Parliament have shown their
disdain for public opinion by singing a song to Milosevic which compares
their love to him to that of Jesus Christ.

Salute from Belgrae

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