Free Serb media to boycott deputy PM over threats

BELGRADE, Feb 15, 2000 -- (Reuters) Serbia's independent media agreed on Monday to boycott all activities of the ultra-nationalist Serbian Radical Party after its leader Vojislav Seselj called journalists traitors.

"The decision is in protest over the Serbian Radical leader's threats of arrest and execution of journalists," said a statement issued after the meeting of the Association of the Independent Journalists and privately-owned media.

"We call on other media to join our protest," said the statement. An editor of the independent Beta news agency told Reuters the statement will be published or aired every day over the next seven days.

On Thursday, Seselj branded independent media as accomplices in the killing of Yugoslavia's defense Minister Pavle Bulatovic who was shot dead by an unknown gunman in a Belgrade restaurant last Monday.

His assassination was the latest in a series of such killings of policemen, businessmen and criminals in Serbia in the last few years. Most are still unsolved.

"We are looking for murderers among you who work for foreign intelligence services, you are accomplices to murder," Seselj told his Party's news conference on Thursday.

"You are very wrong in believing that you can kill statesmen off like rabbits here and remain safe," said Seselj, who accused the West of being behind the assassination.

On Sunday, Serbia's Information Minister Aleksandar Vucic, in an apparent bid to play down Seselj's threats, said: "I don't know who could have seen this as a threat."

Speaking to the independent Index radio, Vucic, of Seselj's party, said that his boss' words could have served as an excuse.

"Maybe someone wanted to see it as a threat so he could make some noise about it in order to squeeze more money from the West, saying: 'you see what conditions we are working in. Give us more money to share between ourselves,'" he said.

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