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Great radio theft - B92

Friday, April 16th, 1999

Death of independent media in Serbia: NATO, Milosevic's (not so) secret ally

On March 24th, the night when NATO strikes on Yugoslavia started, famous Belgrade independent radio station B92 was ordered to shut down the transmitter. Order came from Yugoslav authorities, who wanted to prevent any independent informations to float around. For next 9 days, radio has been broadcasting on Internet and satellite. On April 2nd, authorities shut down radio completely: their offices were confiscated and it's manager and editor-in-chief was dismissed following the court order. History

Radio B92 was founded in 1989 by state- controlled Council of Youth, but that government organization had little interest in station, so first in 1990 and then again 1993 station restructured itself. After 1993 it was owned by new-founded company called B92 Broadcast Company. After restructuring, company expanded it's activities to other areas beyond radio broadcasts: book publishing, TV and Video production, alternative music publishing. One of their great achievements was OpenNet - first Internet Service Provider in Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, founded in 1995. Also in 1995 B92 renovated Belgrade's Rex cinema, abandoned after WWII, and turned it into first-class cultural center. In 1996, B92 and other independent broadcasters in Serbia formed ANEM (Association of Independent Electronic Media) network.

All of these activities stopped at April 2nd, 1999. Yugoslav government took control of all of station's business, ignoring the fact that some of them were owned by independent, privately-help company.

During the 10 years of it's existence, B92 has won numerous international awards for spreading independent news around the globe, and vigorously defending the right of free speech, becoming the symbol of independent media in Serbia. At the same time, station had a lot of trouble with Yugoslav government. Before 1999, it was banned twice, during anti-government protests in Belgrade in 1991 and 1996. Final ban came on March 24th, and on April 2nd, 1999, Yugoslav government took control of the station and all of it's activities, including ANEM network.


First reaction by ANEM network was dismissal of now government-led station from it's membership. But ANEM's offices has also been took, so ANEM is now homeless. Meanwhile, government-led "B92" started their own broadcast. New manager and editor-in-chief is Aleksandar Nikacevic, long-time "leader" of state-controlled student organizations. Nikacevic remained on his position of "student leader" since dawn of Milosevic's rule by extending his status of a "student" for almost ten years. Nikacevic has also often used his position of government's pet in the past. He pursued a career of politician, but until now, he was allowed "only" to take over a small night club in Belgrade.

Now, Nikacevic is finally in for something more. He is very proud of picture of him and president Milosevic together, the picture that is placed on the desk in his new office in B92. Also, the list of his aides includes Rade Radulovic, long-time activist of Council of Youth and Nemanja Djordjevic, so-called "leader" of government-controlled student organization that tried to discredit (in vain) students protests in 1996/97.

Those government people so far don't have a clue what to do with activities like TV/video production, but our insider information are telling that they are at least trying to put Opennet ISP back online. ISP has been cut-off the Internet by B92's partner XS4ALL (ISP from Netherlands) when government took control over the station. Our sources were able to obtain some names of people who are responsible for putting back online the "stolen" Opennet. Some of the names are Milos Prodanovic and Milan Basic.

For past eight years, since anti-government protests first started in 1991, B92 provided listeners in Belgrade (and in later years, world-wide) with open-minded, independent and non-biased informations. Now, whole team of journalists that were employed in B92 are suspended. New management doesn't want to fire them, because that will allow public to condemn it's actions for violating freedom of speech. They are using a trick, often used by government-sponsored takeovers: waiting for journalists' contracts to expire. News presented by "new B92" shows no difference compared to other state-owned radio and TV stations.

The Theft

Since new management is not qualified and not capable of running book and music publishing business, they simply decided to shut it off. This left place in music world only for artists that have contracts with publishers closely connected to government-led media.

Music was always important landmark of B92. New management decided to take away anything that can be connected to "old" B92. In the same line, new music editor, Zoran Lekovic, banned rock'n'roll and techno music from program. New policy allows only old Yugoslav rock and jazz music on the air.

Other properties of B92 Broadcasting Company, like transmitter (sponsored by station's listeners) and "Cinema REX" culture center has also been held by new management. So is private properties of ex-employees. This includes large and very valuable music collection, computers and other equipment.

All of that could never be done without...

.....a little help from Milosevic's friends. And that means - his secret allies, NATO. Milosevic's government has been trying to shut down B92 for ten years, with no success. Even with ever-changing laws, legal status of B92 gave the station complete protection over government's efforts to shut it down. What government needed to shut down not only B92, but all of the independent media in Serbia, was state of war. By Yugoslav law, during the state of war, all the media are put under strong government control. After ten years on unsuccessful attempts to shut down B92, NATO gave Milosevic's government a perfect reason to do so.

And it's not just B92. All of the independent media in Serbia has been shut down, those who survived are under complete censorship. Owners and employees of media that doesn't comply to the censorship rules, are risking prison and even life. Extreme example is death of prominent opposition journalist Slavko Curuvija, owner of Dnevni Telegraf daily, who was shot to death in broad daylight in the downtown Belgrade, on Easter. There are fears that same could happen to other journalist of independent media, as well as prominent political opponents of Milosevic's government.

None of that happened before NATO started bombing campaign. So, it's clear that NATO can actually be regarded as Milosevic accessory in making his totalitarian rule complete.

Finally, does it matter any more? The greatest cynicism of them all is on the go, and NATO is just trying to liberate us, both Serbians and Albanians, from Milosevic's rule, over our dead bodies. Independent media in Serbia are just first victims.

(c) Copyrights Free Serbia, 1999.

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