Belgrade says independent journalists are traitors

By Vesna Peric Zimonjic

12 February 2000

Leading figures in the independent Yugoslav media said yesterday they felt concerned and intimidated after they were labelled Western stooges and accomplices to murder by the deputy prime minister Vojislav Seselj.

On Thursday, the ultranationalist claimed that journalists working for the independent and foreign media in Serbia were traitors paid by the West, and accomplices to the recent killing of defence minister Pavle Bulatovic. Bulatovic was shot dead in a Belgrade restaurant on Monday by an unidentified attacker.

"You are very wrong in believing that you can kill statesmen off like rabbits here and remain safe. Whoever works for the Americans will bear the consequences." Mr Seselj told a news conference. "Do not think you will survive our possible liquidation" Mr Seselj said. He said that the regime "is looking for" Bulatovic's assailants "among you", the reporters "working for foreign intelligence services".

"You are accomplices in the murder. You are the same as those who did it. You do not think that journalists are some sort of holy cows, do you?"

Grujica Spasovic, editor of the independent daily Danas, said he felt personally intimidated. "Every normal person should feel scared and threatened," he said.

The Yugoslav information minister Goran Matic yesterday supported Mr Seselj's allegations. He told reporters: "Yes, there are terrorists among journalists ... "I'm not surprised by Seselj's judgement... Obviously, there are media here whose function is to destabilise the country". Mr Matic is a high official of JUL, the party that runs Yugoslavia in coalition with Slobodan Milosevic's Socialists and Seselj's Radicals. JUL is headed by Mira Markovic, wife of President Milosevic.

* British troops yesterday took over the most dangerous flashpoint in Kosovo – the bridge dividing Serbs from Albanians in the strife-torn town of Mitrovica. They are replacing French forces, who failed to prevent ethnic clashes this week in which eight Albanians died and more than 20 people, mainly Serbs, were injured.

The French, who control the northernmost sector of Kosovo, have been strongly criticised for effectively partitioning Mitrovica.

Original article