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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release October 21, 1998


The United States condemns the draconian law on Information passed yesterday by the Serbian parliament. This law establishes massive fines on media outlets for failing to publish information the FRY authorities deem important and for carrying foreign programming. It also requires publishers to forward copies of each issue to the public prosecutor and the Ministry of Information. This repressive law follows a series of hostile actions taken against independent media outlets in the FRY over the past weeks, including the closure of newspapers Danas, Dnevi Telegraf, and Nasa Borba and Radio Index in Belgrade, and Radio Senta in Vojvodina.

The government's actions are clearly designed to intimidate Serbia's independent media and to prevent them from reporting the truth about President Milosevic's campaign of repression in Kosovo. Milosevic is also trying to hide from his own people the substantial concessions he has been forced to make under the threat of NATO air strikes. This includes an unprecedented international presence in Kosovo, that until now he had steadfastly resisted, with 2,000 OSCE verifiers on the ground and NATO surveillance in the air.

The United States is committed to promoting free and open media across the globe, including in the FRY. We are actively supporting the courageous work of civil society and independent media organizations in the FRY who are struggling to keep independent media voices alive. We have expanded Voice of America's Serbian and Albanian broadcasts, and have begun broadcasting medium wave transmissions which can be received on AM radios throughout the FRY. We are also utilizing the Internet to enhance the level of information flowing in and out of the country.

In the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, independent radio stations and newspapers have provided valuable perspectives to the population of Yugoslavia about issues which strongly affect these citizens' lives. Without independent media voices, the people of FRY will be less able to make the informed decisions that will determine their future.

The Belgrade leadership should immediately halt its repression of independent media. Developing a vibrant civil society with free and independent media will be a crucial step in building the type of civil society which can return the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to its place among nations. Unfortunately, the current leadership in Belgrade seems determined to keep that country a pariah and to deny its citizens the benefits of democracy and integration into Europe.