Three days after Serbian officials cracked down on free speech, independent Belgrade radio station B92 is back on the air
Last night, the Serbian deputy information minister announced that B92 would be permitted to begin broadcasting again and implied that the station was shut down for technical reasons, not politics.
Sasa Mirkovic, director of Radio B92, sent the government a letter last night requesting that the government specify the "technical reason" for the shutdown so that similar problems could be avoided in the future.
Belgrade's only independent radio station was closed down on December 3. Although the station's transmitter was turned off, its Web site remained up, continually posting letters, press releases, RealAudio broadcasts, and an appeal for help from Netizens.
B92, which has won awards for antiwar engagement and other projects, is another example of an oppressed community that has discovered the democratic powers of the Internet. First attracting worldwide attention with the Chinese pro-democracy movement in 1989, the Net is being used increasingly by dissidents from all parts of the political spectrum.
RealAudio creator Progressive Networks' began hosting broadcast over the Net last night. Joe Follansbee, a RealAudio special projects editor, had heard the radio station had RealAudio clips. Company executives decided to support B92 by presenting the radio's broadcasts at three RealAudio sites.
"This company is committed to free speech," he said. "We wanted to support B92."
The radio station's transmitter was turned off by local authorities after the station continued to cover antigovernment demonstrations that were ignored by the state-controlled newspapers and television.
"Demonstrations are being organized by the democratic opposition, dissatisfied with the results on local elections being canceled by the regime," reads a letter on the Web site, signed by Veran Matic, editor in chief of the station. "The regime is trying to prevent its electoral defeat in major cities of Serbia--which is the first factual defeat of the Slobodan Milosevic's regime since 1987."
"Radio B92 is a single independent electronic medium in Belgrade, which is continually reporting on actual events, and it operates [sic] for 7 years now without an official licence," the letter states.
"This radio has so far been the best, most reliable, and professional source of information for both the citizens of Belgrade and foreign correspondents based in FR Yugoslavia," Matic wrote. "Should it be banned, this would mean a huge blow for democratic processes in Serbia and an obvious undermining of all the principles that the Dayton Agreement stands for."