By ANCA PADURARUOpposition radio station shut down in Serbia
BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (March 12, 2000) - Police on Sunday took an opposition-run radio and television station in western Serbia off the air.
The police dismantled the transmitter of Radio Television Pozega, run by the opposition-controlled municipal government of Pozega, 60 miles southwest of Belgrade, the station's chief editor, Branko Nikolic, told The Associated Press.
The move came after a tense standoff that began Saturday when police and government officials showed up at the station to shut it down for allegedly failing to pay the Telecommunications Ministry for the right to use its frequency.
While arguing that the bills had been paid, Nikolic and other employees also broadcast an urgent appeal to its audience to defend the station from what they called another in a series of illegal, politically motivated closures of nongovernment media in Serbia.
Several hundred people responded and formed a crowd that prevented the police from seizing the station's transmitter, perched atop a high-rise in the town. However, as the crowd diminished overnight, the police rounded up the remaining protesters, and took the transmitter away.
"We won't let them get away with this," Nikolic said, but declined to specify future actions to get the station back on the air.
Several opposition politicians promptly reacted to the situation in Pozega and joined the protest by making speeches against President Slobodan Milosevic, vowing that the opposition would topple the autocrat.
Police in Pozega declined to comment on the incident.
The move against the local broadcaster came after dozens of other moves to shut down, fine or put under state control media that have news program critical of authorities.
The pressure on nongovernment media - privately owned and opposition-run - has intensified ahead of local elections that are due later this year.
On Saturday some 2,000 protesters in the nearby town of Cuprija gathered to demand that their local radio station be put back on the air after the authorities shut it down last week.