USIS Washington 

24 November 1998


(RFE/RL press release 11/20/98) (370)

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

November 20, 1998


(Washington, DC -- 20 November 1998) In President Slobodan Milosevic's
Serbia, state-controlled broadcast and print media hold most of the
cards, leaving independent journalists few avenues for voicing
opposition in that country.

As a result, international broadcasting and the Internet play an
especially important role in allowing the opposition to reach the
population at large.

Branislav Canak, founder and Chairman of the Independent Journalists
Union of Serbia, outlined both the difficulties journalists face in
Serbia and also the ways in which they are making use of international
broadcasts and the Internet at a Tuesday briefing at RFE/RL's
Washington office.

Because independent domestic stations reach such a relatively small
percentage of the population, Canak said, short-wave broadcasts offer
the people of Serbia their only real hope for balanced news coverage
-- especially now that the Serbian government has banned
retransmission of programs produced by international broadcasters such
as RFE/RL, VOA, and the BBC.

A broadcast journalist with Radio/TV Belgrade until he was fired in
1993 for his union activities and anti-Milosevic stance during that
year's elections, Canak said that students in Belgrade can also break
the state's news monopoly through access to the Internet. But in
Serbia's rural areas, only one TV broadcast is available, and it
remains under government control.

Canak said that many independent newspapers are now printed in
neighboring Montenegro -- a member with Serbia of the "Federal
Republic of Yugoslavia." But he added that attempts to ship newspapers
to Belgrade for distribution are often delayed at the interstate
border by Serbian customs officials, in an effort to rob the papers of
their news value.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty is a private, international radio
service to Eastern Europe and Southeastern Europe, Russia, the
Caucasus, Central Asia and the Middle East. More than 20 million
regular listeners rely on RFE/RL's daily news, analysis and current
affairs programming to provide a coherent, objective account of events
in their region and the world.

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