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Human Chain To Defend Independent Newspaper

January 1, 1995

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (AP) _ Demonstrators stopped traffic and formed a human chain Sunday to protest Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic’s attempts to muzzle the nation’s last independent newspaper.

The 500 in the crowd included prominent journalists and opposition politicians. They gathered in front of the Borba newspaper’s offices in downtown Belgrade for about an hour and formed the link around the building.

``This is a symbolic gesture,″ explained Dragan Nikitovic, head of the Independent Journalists’ Association and a protest organizer. ``We want to show we are going to defend Borba.″

Milosevic’s government late last month tightened its grip on the Serbian media by taking control of the privately run Borba.

Borba’s staff is resisting the seizure. Since the takeover attempt, two separate editions have been printed _ one run by the government appointees, the other by the paper’s rebellious employees.

Media control has been crucial to Milosevic’s grip on power since he became Communist party leader in 1987. He subsequently embraced nationalism but now apparently wants to ensure that nationalist opponents of his new peacemaking course in Bosnia have no media outlet.

``Milosevic’s regime is totalitarian; the only way to fight it is in the streets,″ Vuk Draskovic, the top opposition leader in Serbia, told the cheering crowd.

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