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Beta independent news agency heavily fined


(RSF/IFEX) - In a letter to the United Nations special rapporteur on human rights in the former Yugoslavia, Jiri Diensbier, RSF protested the fining of the Beta independent news agency and two of its journalists. The organisation asked him to do everything possible to defend media which are threatened by the Serbian authorities. RSF notably denounced the use of the Law on Information, adopted in October 1998, to silence the independent press.


According to the information collected by RSF, on 18 April 2000, the Beta agency was fined 150,000 dinars (approx. US$12,860, 13,630 euros) in accordance with the Law on Information. The agency's director, Radomir Diklic, and its editor in chief, Ljubica Markovic, were each fined 80,000 dinars (approx. US$6,860, 7,270 euros). Yugoslav Information Minister Goran Matic had filed a complaint against Beta after the agency had stated that he was the owner of a radio station in Sremska Mitrovica (70 km west of Belgrade). Beta was also sentenced for having published the question "who killed Slavko Curuvija?" in a dispatch adressed to the minister by anti-establishment students with the organisation Otpor ("Resistance") in Sremska Mitrovica. Curuvija, the editor of an independent newspaper, was killed in front of his residence on 11 April 1999, during the NATO bombing campaign. The case has yet to be solved (see IFEX alerts of 17 April and 6 January 2000, 29 and 22 December, 23, 19, 13 and 12 April 1999 and others).

RSF recalls that anti-establishment media continue to be hit with fines on a regular basis, as part of the Serbian authorities' efforts to control information. To this day, the total amount of fines against independent and opposition media is around 25 million dinars (approx. US$2.1 million, 2.3 million euros). Belgrade's Studio B television station and the independent weekly "Vreme" were notably hit with fines of 450,000 and 350,000 dinars (approx. US$38,500 and 30,000, 40,500 et 32,000 euros), respectively, on 10 and 11 April (see IFEX alerts of 14 and 11 April 2000).


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