Serb opposition condemns attack on television

BELGRADE, Mar 7, 2000 -- (AFP) Serbia's opposition condemned "state terrorism" against the biggest opposition television channel following a raid on its transmitter on Monday by men in police uniforms who smashed equipment and injured two workers.

Dragan Kojadinovic, editor-in-chief of Studio B television, said five people in blue police fatigues beat up a guard and a technician at a suburban Studio B transmitting station, tied them up and systematically destroyed the equipment. One of the victims had serious head injuries.

"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," Kojadinovic said.

Police denied it had anything to do with the incident and called Kojadinovic's account "ill-intentioned" and "fabricated". They said they had carried out an immediate investigation and were trying to shed light on the event.

This was the latest in a series of attacks on Studio B, owned by Belgrade city council and controlled by the opposition Serbian Renewal Movement of charismatic opposition leader Vuk Draskovic.

Draskovic's most bitter opposition rival Zoran Djinjdic appeared at a meeting in Studio B on Monday evening in a rare conciliatory gesture emphasizing the concern with which opposition parties view the latest incident.

"Leaders of the democratic opposition most firmly condemn state, police and court terror against Studio B," said a joint statement issued after the meeting.

The statement also threatened to call supporters to "defend Studio B" without specifying how and said the regime would bear responsibility for all possible consequences.

Serbia's fragmented opposition buried the hatchet in January, uniting in a bid to call for early general elections to oust Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.

Milosevic's ruling coalition, infuriated by the opposition's move to unify, stepped up a campaign against its leaders, who it calls lackeys of NATO forces which bombed Yugoslavia last year over Milosevic's repression of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.

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

The Yugoslav telecommunications minister told Studio B on Monday it had eight days to pay 11 million dinars ($244,000 at the black market exchange rate) for use of radio frequencies.

Also on Monday a Belgrade magistrate court fined the Studio B and Kojadinovic a total of 450,000 dinars ($10,000 at the black market rate) for breaching the information law by a statement made during a live broadcast.

The government last week took over the mass circulation daily Vecernje Novosti, which had taken an increasingly independent line.

Original article