Freedom of the Press - Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro) (2002)

Status: Partly Free
Legal Environment: 11
Political Influences: 20
Economic Pressures: 14
Total Score: 45

Population: n/a
GNI/capita: n/a
Life Expectancy: 72
Religious Groups: n/a
Ethnic Groups: Serb (63 percent), Albanian (17 percent), Montenegrin (5 percent), Hungarian (3 percent), other (12 percent)
Capital: Belgrade

A verbal and occasionally physical tug-of-war between the new government and independent journalists marked the country's transition to democracy. Yet, one of the first acts of the new regime was the opening of state and quasi-state broadcasters and print media in Serbia to representatives of the former opposition bloc and the NGO sector. Independent, anti-Milosevic radio-television channels (radio and television B92) claimed, however, they must vie for formal licensing with news media formerly allied to the accused war criminal. B92 claimed that without a new broadcasting law the media are under constant threat of closure. The government responded that it faced "real chaos" in assigning spectrum positions to more than 700 private radio and TV stations. It sought through new laws to reduce by half the number of licensed broadcasters on the spectrum. Some TV programs were banned pending decisions on licensing of stations. A Public Broadcasting Act establishing autonomous public-service broadcasting is planned. Libel remains a criminal offence, and some journalists practice self-censorship. Police confiscated an independent radio station's tape of a highway demonstration. In the period of uncertainty journalists were physically assaulted at a political rally in Novi Sad. A Montenegran journalist was threatened with assassination. One journalist was murdered in Serbia, and two journalists were killed in Kosovo.

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