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Milosevic Won’t End Media Crackdown

October 27, 1998

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (AP) _ President Slobodan Milosevic is refusing to back down from his purge of Serbia’s independent media, a U.S. envoy said Tuesday.

Speaking to representatives of independent Serbian media, U.S. envoy Christopher Hill promised he would again push the issue with the autocratic Yugoslav president when he meets him later Tuesday.

``I assure you I have raised the issue at the highest level here very forcefully,″ Hill told reporters. ``I am sorry to say... we don’t seem to have ... results.″

Last week, Serbian parliament passed a new media law severely restricting press freedom and instituting severe fines for those publishing ``anti-patriotic″ and ``anti-government″ stories.

``You cannot wipe out independent media any more than you can deprive people of oxygen,″ Hill said.

``It is a 19th century means, not worthy even of the Ottoman empire,″ Hill said, referring to Serbia’s ancient enemy, the Ottoman Turks.

Also Tuesday, independent daily NT Plus halted publication after telephone threats to its chief editor, Momcilo Djogovic.

``The new media law has turned into a widespread lynching of journalists,″ Djogovic said, adding that his newspaper would not appear on the stands under these ``absurd conditions.″

On Monday, two Serbian independent daily newspapers, Nasa Borba and Danas, which were briefly banned by the government earlier this month, stopped publishing in protest after police raided the office of another non-government newspaper, confiscated property and fined the paper for alleged anti-state activity.

Monday night, police raided the apartment of Ivan Tadic, manager of DT-press publishing company, which publishes the weekly Evropljanin, or European. All Tadic’s personal belongings were taken away except his baby’s crib and clothes.

Over the weekend, a Belgrade court fined his weekly $246,000 for publishing an article that accused Milosevic of introducing ``dictatorship″ and leading the country into political and economic chaos.

The restrictive media law was passed amid anti-Western sentiment in the country, fueled by NATO threats to launch airstrikes to end the crisis in Kosovo, the southern Serbian province where ethnic Albanian secessionists have been battling Yugoslav troops.

Hill said Yugoslavia could not become a full-fledged member of the European and international communities with this type of censorship.

``This issue of media is gaining altitude fast,″ Hill said. ``This situation is totally unnecessary and needs to be fixed fast.″

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