Serb free media says government cuts information flow

BELGRADE, Apr 11, 2000 -- (Reuters) Leaders of Serbia's non-state media said on Monday the government was cutting them off from official sources of information.

"Sources within the authorities have been increasingly closing themselves off to us," Bozidar Andrejic, deputy editor-in-chief of the opposition daily Danas, told reporters.

Non-government media saw the exclusion as the latest in a series of attempts by the authorities to stifle them ahead of local and federal elections due later this year.

Andrejic said his daily and other media were banned from the congress of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's ruling Socialist Party in February and a parliamentary commission meeting chaired by the Serbian Radical Party last week.

Radomir Diklic, the director of independent Beta news agency, said blocking access to official events and statements left the non-government media more exposed than ever to charges from officials they were unpatriotic lackeys of the West.

"All these are institutions where decisions are made that refer to all our readers, listeners or viewers," Diklic said.

Over the past year, almost all leading independent and opposition media have either received hefty fines under Serbia's strict media law or had their equipment confiscated for breaching telecommunications regulations.

On Monday, Belgrade opposition television Studio B was fined the maximum amount allowed under the information law of 450,000 dinars ($15,000 at the black market rate) on libel charges filed by city police chief Branko Djuric for a broadcast on April 3.

The broadcast linked Djuric to a mysterious car crash in October which killed four members of the opposition Serbian Renewal Movement which controls Studio B.

The head of the movement, Vuk Draskovic, has repeatedly called it an assassination attempt against him by the state, an allegation officials have denied.

Original article