Turnout drops during fourth day of protests

BELGRADE, May 21, 2000 -- (Reuters) The turnout at street protests in Belgrade against the government's seizure of an influential television station fell further on Saturday with about 1,000 demonstrators attending a rally in rainy weather.

This compared with up to 30,000 outside Belgrade city hall on Wednesday, the first day of demonstrations against the takeover of Studio B television earlier that day.

The attendance fell to around 10,000 on Thursday and to 5,000 the following day. Serb riot police used tear gas and batons to break up Thursday's protest, injuring several people. In contrast, Saturday's rally ended without incident.

Analysts say many people probably stayed away because they feared new street violence and because other rallies over the last decade largely failed to bring about democratic change.

Studio B was considered the most important opposition television outlet in Serbia. The seizure was the most severe action yet against non-government media, after a series of recent fines and lawsuits over their reporting.

The independent B2-92 radio station said about 40 people arrested during this week's clashes with police had been given sentences of between 20 and 30 days.

Separately, the Beta news agency said police had continued to detain activists of the student-based Otpor (Resistance) movement, branded by authorities as a "terrorist" organization.

It said 34 Otpor activists and eight opposition party members had been arrested in several Serbian towns on Saturday. Most of them were questioned and later released, it said.

Police have detained scores of Otpor activists since last weekend's shooting of a senior government official in northern Vojvodina province, accusing Otpor of being behind the murder of Bosko Perosevic.

Original article