Raiders smash Serb opposition TV antenna, two hurt

BELGRADE, Mar 6, 2000 -- (Reuters) People in police uniforms destroyed a transmitter belonging to Serbia's biggest opposition television channel early on Monday after beating and tying up two people working there, its editor-in-chief said.

Dragan Kojadinovic said five people in blue police fatigues jumped out of a vehicle at three a.m. (0200 GMT) on Monday at a suburban Studio B transmitting station.

They beat a guard and a duty technician, tied them up and covered them with blankets, then systematically destroyed the equipment. One of the victims sustained serious head injuries.

"They covered the two men with blankets so they could not identify the expert who knew exactly what equipment to break," Kojadinovic told Reuters by telephone.

He said the attackers took a stereo coder that broadcasts the independent radio station B2-92 and Studio B's 51st channel that covers up to one million viewers, mostly in Belgrade. But it was the violence rather than the damage that was most worrying, Kojadinovic added.

"This act itself is much worse than the damage. It is clear that blood was shed at a Studio B transmitter tonight and that is the worst thing," he said.

"This is a crackdown the police through the state are conducting against Studio B. This is obvious and has now taken on the form of a real war against Studio B," he said.

Kojadinovic said he did not know the identity of the assailants, adding that police had come to the scene to investigate. He said a police statement was expected later.

It was the latest in a series of attacks on Studio B, owned by Belgrade city council which is controlled by the opposition Serbian Renewal Movement.

A Studio B transmitter was sabotaged in January, halving the number of potential viewers, and its signal has been jammed for several months, forcing it to seek alternative channels.

The station has also been sued for libel several times by officials under Serbia's tough information law, and faced a new hearing on Monday.

The Serbian Renewal Movement, headed by charismatic leader Vuk Draskovic, joined forces with other opposition parties in January to press for early general elections and the ouster of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.

Milosevic's ruling coalition has launched a fierce media campaign against opposition parties, calling them lackeys of NATO forces which bombed the country last year over Milosevic's repression of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.

In their latest move in against the media the government last week took over the mass circulation daily Vecernje Novosti, which had taken an increasingly independent line.

Original article