Dienstbier denounces move against independent media in Serbia

BELGRADE, Mar 20, 2000 -- (CTK) Jiri Dienstbier, U.N. human rights special rapporteur for former Yugoslavia, denounced on Sunday the current campaign of Belgrade authorities against Serbian independent media, the French news agency AFP reported today.

"This if entirely unacceptable and counter-productive," Dienstbier, Czechoslovakia's first post-communist foreign minister currently on a 10-day tour of Yugoslavia, told AFP. "Any regime which persecutes the media, is a closed regime which is doomed to stagnation," said Dienstbier, himself a former journalist.

Dienstbier said that the closure of a number of independent TV and radio studios by President Slobodan Milosevic's regime "is a clear violation of Yugoslav legislation, not to speak about further consequences" and "it must be stopped immediately."

The Telecommunications Ministry said on Saturday that the move had been taken because the operators either did not have a license or were not paying taxes to the state. Dienstbier also said that he had visited Pozarevac in eastern Serbia to visit in prison Flora Brovina, a Kosovo Albanian doctor specialized in pediatrics, who was sentenced to 12 years in prison for alleged terrorist activities last December.

Brovina, head of the League of Albanian Women in Kosovo's administrative center Pristina, was arrested in April 1999 during NATO airstrikes on Yugoslavia. Dienstbier said "her condemnation was completely fabricated, without any evidence and besides it is entirely absurd that she was chosen because she is democratic-orientated."

Dienstbier also visited Albin Kruti, a Kosovo Albanian student leader who was given a 15-year sentence on March 13 on terrorist charges. His conviction "is an absolute breach of the Yugoslav legal system." Dienstbier also visited in Belgrade hospital Kosovo Albanian lawyer Husnija Bitiqi and his wife who were attacked by four unknown perpetrators and beaten up last week.

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