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<nettime> Campaign for Defence of Independent Media in Serbia

International Campaign for Defence of Independent Media And Free
Journalism in Serbia Launched

Brussels, March 30, 2000 -- Journalists, publishers, broadcasters and
press freedom groups from around the world today launched a campaign Prime
Time for Freedom to defend independent media and journalists in Serbia who
are being victimised by the government of Slobodan Milosevic. 

The aims of the Campaign, which held its first crisis meeting in Brussels
today, are to defend independent media and to support professional
organisations currently under threat; to campaign vigorously against
actions by the Serb authorities to intimidate journalists; to launch a
practical programme of solidarity in defence of media; to seek repeal of
the draconian media laws and to replace them with a legal framework that
will support international standards of media freedom. 

International professional organisations supporting the campaign have
already committed funds to an action plan. 

They are seeking donations in support of:
 a Media Assistance Fund to provide resources to keep the independent press
and broadcasting movement alive;
 a Solidarity Fund to provide humanitarian aid to journalists, media staff
and their families who are victimised by the authorities; and
 a special Legal Aid Fund to support court cases on behalf of media and
journalists facing prosecution and to help prepare texts for a new media
legal framework in line with international standards of regulation of media.

"The situation in Serbia has reached crisis point," said Aidan White,
General Secretary of the International Federation of Journalists who,
along with the World Association of Newspapers, hosted today's campaign
launch meeting after appeals from within Serbia for help. 

Veran Matic, Chairman of the Association of Independent Electronic Media
in FR Yugoslavia (ANEM) said that the Campaign was urgently needed: "The
media crisis is deepening. Urgent steps are required to save independent
journalism. There will be no hope for democracy if the independent media
are extinguished." 

"Independent journalism is under threat of extinction," said White, "the
government is using all forms of quasi-legal and economic sanctions to
silence independent voices. A hysterical campaign of vilification has been
launched against the independent press." 

Radomir Diklic, Director of BETA News Agency and President of the
Association of the Private Media said: "The situation for the press in
Serbia is so grave that we need a comprehensive programme of solidarity. 
Actions, not words are what count now." 

The Prime Time For Freedom Campaign is launching a worldwide publicity
programme to highlight the crisis of independent media in Serbia and is
asking governments covered by the Stability Pact arrangement in South
Eastern Europe to provide special programmes that deal with the current
emergency in Serbia. 

Despite the refusal of the authorities to grant visas to independent media
supporters outside Serbia to visit Belgrade, the Campaign organisers still
hope for dialogue with government and official representatives. 

"We do not want confrontation," said Timothy Balding, Director General of
the World Association of Newspapers. "The issue of press freedom and
respect for human rights should be dealt with in open, honest and
challenging dialogue. We are ready to talk and to meet with anyone to help
lift the current intolerable pressure on our colleagues." 

Further information: International Federation of Journalists: +32 2 223 22

The Prime Time for Freedom Campaign is supported by the following
International Federation of Journalists
World Association of Newspapers
Committee to Protect Journalists
Independent Journalists' Association of Serbia
Media Resistance
Association of Independent Electronic Media Serbia
Association of Private Media Serbia
Human Rights Watch
European Broadcasting Union
World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters
Article XIX
International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights
International Confederation of free Trade Unions
International Press Institute
Journalists Unions in the Following Countries:
The Netherlands (NVJ, Nederlandse Vereniging van Journalisten),
Hungary (Hungarian Association of Journalists, Hungarian Press Union)

The Campaign is supported by the following Donor Organisations:
OSI Network Media Program
Press Now, Amsterdam

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