YU media worried by minister's charges

BELGRADE, Feb 12, 2000 -- (Reuters) Leading representatives of independent Yugoslav media say they feel threatened by the hard-hitting remarks of a powerful ultra-nationalist Serbian minister.

Deputy Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj accused "traitorous" media on Thursday of being accomplices in the killing of Yugoslav Defence Minister Pavle Bulatovic, shot dead in a Belgrade restaurant on Monday by an unidentified attacker.

"You are very wrong in believing that you can kill statesmen off like rabbits here and remain safe. Whoever works for the Americans will bear the consequences," Seselj, visibly angry, told a news conference.

Grujica Spasovic, editor of the independent daily Danas, said he felt personally intimidated.

"Every normal person should feel scared and threatened. The way I see it, to carry on with normal work is the best way to deal with this fear," Spasovic said late on Thursday.

Veran Matic, president of the Association of the Independent Electronic Media (ANEM), took a similar line. "We are taking these threats very seriously," he told Reuters on Friday.

Information Minister Goran Matic told a news conference on Friday that Seselj's statement did not surprise him, as he also believed certain media were following foreign instructions.

"It is obvious that there is a part of the manipulated media that work only for the destabilization of our country. Those papers, obviously at a specific moment when our country is still under extended aggression, give their contribution to that aggression," he said.

The opposition Democratic Party, struggling to oust Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, denounced Seselj's statements.

"The current authorities in Serbia are inducing fear in all families," it said in a statement.

Seselj, the strident leader of the Serbian Radical Party, warned those working for what he described as traitorous media and for the Americans of the "worst possible consequences."

"We are looking for murderers among you who work for foreign intelligence services, you are accomplices to murder, you are the same," Seselj told the news conference.

Seselj mentioned several independent newspapers during the news conference, including Danas, as well as the B2-92 radio station, the leading member of ANEM.

According to Seselj, the West had been financing opposition media to wage a propaganda war in the country. "You are murderers of your people and your state, potential murderers."

"You do not think that you will survive our possible liquidation. If you do, you are very wrong," said Seselj, a widely feared former paramilitary leader.

ANEM's Veran Matic expressed concern that authorities may try to shut down B2-92, formed last year after state authorities seized the independent B-92 radio during the NATO air war.

"It is clear that neither myself nor the people who work at B2-92 feel safe and we expect the radio could be banned again," he said.

Original article