CEOL
Serbian papers blame State for newsprint shortage

BELGRADE, Jul 12, 2000 -- (Reuters) Belgrade's few remaining independent newspapers accused the government on Tuesday of trying to shut them down by starving them of newsprint.

Newsprint deliveries to independent dailies from the country's sole producer Matroz have dropped sharply over the past several months.

"I am convinced that the regime's intention is to shut us down by hindering our printing paper supplies," Miodrag Djuricic, the director of the Belgrade daily Blic, told Reuters.

Milan Misic, editor-in-chief of another independent daily Glas Javnosti said: "The problem lies in unequal distribution of home-produced newsprint in favor of state-run dailies."

In June Matroz monthly deliveries to Blic, whose daily circulation stands at over 200.000, dropped to 112 tones from over 391 tones in May.

"In July we have not received one single kilogram of newsprint from Matroz," Djuricic said. Blic needs around 660 tones of paper each month.

Matroz officials were not immediately available for comment.

The dailies say that despite Matroz's problems with a lack of imported raw materials, the factory's daily output of up to 90 tones could at least partly meet demands of all papers if it was equally distributed.

Blic, along with another four independent papers, Glas Javnosti, Danas, NIN and Vreme, have appealed to the government to allow them to import newsprint.

But Djuricic said the response was always negative, with the explanation that there was plenty of home-produced printing paper on the market.

INDEPENDENT MEDIA UNDER ATTACK

Bratislav Grubacic, editor-in-chief of the influential V.I.P. newsletter, said Serbia's internationally shunned government was using all possible means to sanction independent media.

"The entire game with printing paper is aimed at closing down the independent media. The authorities have all the legal instruments to conduct their will," Grubacic said. "And objectively they are doing it with great success."

Misic said Glas Javnosti had used up all its printing paper reserves and was now using packing and paper-bag paper.

"The quality of the paper is inadequate and is damaging our presses. If nothing changes within the next few days, we will be forced to halt the presses," he said.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Serbia warned in a statement that shutting down the independent dailies would "bring complete media darkness in Serbia".

"That is the last attempt by this dictatorial, internationally isolated regime, which is estranged from the people, to have a monopoly over the truth and thus remain in power," the statement said.

The harshest act against the media by the leftist nationalist authorities led by President Slobodan Milosevic was the seizure of opposition Studio B television in May.



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