note: the base of this text is a lecture held in summer 1999 at the university in hamburg in a circus of lectures dedicated to the culture of listening to the radio (for details see http://www.sign-lang.uni-hamburg.de/medienprojekt/Archiv.KVV/Ss99/vorl1.html). after it became clear that a publication would follow, the text was completely rewritten to include developments in yugoslavia after the nato-bombings and later the era of slobodan milosevic ended; however it was not updated since the end of 2000. including the texts of all the lectures, the text was first published in: Andreas Stuhlmann (Ed.): Radio- Kultur und Hör-Kunst. Zwischen Avantgarde und Popularkultur 1923 2001. Würzburg 2001. ISBN: 3826020979
Tom Bass/Friedrich Tietjen
In considering post-communist media in Yugoslavia, B92 in Belgrade is a notable example: The radio station is a hybrid that contains features of free radios along with those of classic private media and of east european NGOs; it was founded by a group of radio enthusiasts, DJs and journalists with no state, commercial or institutional background; it has and had employees and it broadcasts advertisements; it is financed mainly by foreign donors and keeps independence from the state. Our main interest was to collect sources and compile a somehow consistent history of the station rather than to judge the station's policy with the critical instruments deriving from our work in western style free radios; thus our approach could be described as sceptic solidarity. And as the sources on the history of the station are scattered and partially contradictory, partially incomplete, for this article we could adapt B92's slogan: »Don't trust anybody, even us«
When Tito's birthday was celebrated in May 1989, usually as the Day of Youth, a group of young journalists managed to get a temporary licence to broadcast with the help of Belgrade's Youth Council. »The government, anticipating nothing more than an apolitical but funky student radio show, granted them a 15-day permit on an FM frequency and a small room in downtown Belgrade, crowded with minutes from forgotten Communist Party Central Committee meetings. They threw out the old material and started a radio station (...).. The start-up broadcast was a severe critique of the official celebration of the late president Tito's birthday on the grounds that the event perpetuated the aura of a dictator who was eight years dead. By the end of the 15 days, the broadcasters were having so much fun that they decided to keep on going (...). The authorities, trapped in their own inertia, were incapable or unwilling to stop something they had allowed to start.«1 The program was rather anti-pop: »We played what we loved. We said: No compromise with the commercial pop-universe, the MTV-world blabla. Never ever will we have Phil Collins or Tina Turner on our turntables. We had an anti-MTV-jingle in our program that time: First you heard the voices of MTV-moderators like Bip Dann or Steve Blane. Then you heard the noise of breaking vinyl, krackckck! Then the voice of our moderators: »Don't TV music, hear music!« It was one of our best jingles.«2. Without a licence but fostered by the media-jurisdiction that was based on no less than five partially contradictory laws, B92 got a contract to use an antenna and a transmitter of RTS, the state radio and television of Serbia. This made B92 on the one hand dependant to RTS - on the other hand it gave them some sort of liberty: »It could be said ... that B92 could not be banned as, legally, it did not even exist. (...) A ban would be a de facto recognition of our existence.«3 The unequal relationship continued until B92 finally managed to get a licence along with its own transmitter in 1998.
Due to its founders, B92 was originally focused on the urban youth and middle-aged in Belgrade, emphasizing news independent from the state-controlled media along with international music - jungle as well as techno were introduced to a larger public in Yugoslavia by the station: »It was defined as 'a radio movement' that took its listeners out on the streets in a series of actions, which were in keeping with its editorial policy and attracted the general public.«4
This became obvious in the early 90s frictions when began to shake the state of Yugoslavia. When demonstrations opposing the nationalist propaganda of most state-controlled media in March 1991 were met by the authorities with increasing violence by the police, B92's journalists took part in the marches and their reports called in by mobiles were directly aired. After two people died in clashes, tanks were brought into the capital and B92 was banned. The demonstrations continued adding new demands: not only should the propaganda stop but the tanks should vanish and B92 should get back on the air. Gordan Paunovic recalls: »At 6 p.m. the police came to the station and told us: 'Switch off now'. The very same day the Serbian representative in the Yugoslav government ordered tanks onto Belgrade's streets. In the next days the students demonstrated demanding the withdrawal of the tanks and the permission to broadcast for B92. We got the permission with the obligation not to report on the demonstrations any more. We said OK and played music instead. I remember that the first record was 'Boys are Back in Town' and then 'Police on My Back', 'Fight the Power', etc. The music explained what happened out on the streets without news being broadcasted.«5
Despite all resistance the frictions turned into wars. After Milosevic rapidly rose to power he quickly adapted the press and electronic media to his needs: »At the very beginning of his reign Milosevic (or rather, his team of collaborators) established a consequent media politics that functioned impeccably until 1999 NATO bombings. It was a politics that was based on the accurate reading of the influence of particular media (or rather, some of their representatives) and implemented through the principle of concentric circles: whereas the less influential newspapers, magasines, radio and TV stations were kept under various restrictions but not censored or repressed in the classical sense of the word, the state radio and television (RTS) as well as the main daily newspaper Politika were held in a tight grip. At the core of this circular structure of control was RTS News Programme. Broadcasted daily in various formats on the whole territory of Yugoslavia and the adjoint Serbian territories in Bosnia and Croatia (and, until NATO bombing, also via satellite), RTS News was the main producer of Milosevic's fabricated reality, a reality that could only be compared to Orwell's imagination which was still all too often surpassed in Serbia of the 90s.«6
The antagonism escalated; Kucan in Slovenia and Tudjman in Croatia actually led the way in calling for secession, but Milosevic went further, following his maximalist path that the West consistently failed to calculate for more than ten years. While Slovenia, Macedonia and Croatia got independent in 1991 with little bloodshed, the next year saw the independence of Bosnia and the invention of the euphemism 'ethnic cleansing'. After years of wars, massacres and the siege of Sarajevo the Dayton Accords were implemented in November 1995 by which the independence of Bosnia was acknowledged and two different territories (Republica Srpska and the Bosnian-Muslim Federation) were founded.
The decay of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY), wars and refugees fleeing them had major repercussions on the media-landscape. In Serbia and Montenegro (the two republics that until today represent the FRY) Milosevic's control on media and communication tightened. Phonelines between the republics were cut, disconnecting not only families, neighbours and friends but collaborating media, too. In some cases a network sympathetic of radio-amateur operators was helpful. But coproductions alike the one of B92 and Sarajevo-based stations Radio Zid and Studio 99 could only be continued with the help of foreign partners. In 1991 a network called Fax-Help was founded: organizations in other parts of Europe served as relays to forward faxes from Yugoslavia to Bosnia and vice versa. Some months later in 1992 a network of electronic mailboxes called ZaMir (»for peace«) was founded by Eric Bachman. It was essentially the only structure able to breach the division between new republics at a few nodes: Ljubljana, Zagreb, Tuzla, Vukovar, Sarajevo, Pakrac, Belgrade, and Pristina. Despite the push and pull of war, the net fostered the union between those who had once been, in propaganda, "Anarcho-liberals" and were now "Yugo-nostalgics", while more importantly permitting refugees to locate their beloved scattered by the last minute abandonment of home and life. The ZaMir initiative also intended to implement a wider receptivity of the net beyond these circles. Another similar project had been the Jupak network running from Maribor, Slovenia. These first steps towards the internet met the considerations by Yugoslav officials: »Almost simultaneously, government-appointed rectors and high-ranking technical executives from all the Yugoslav universities gathered in Belgrade to decide which communications path Yugoslavia would take. Would the country become open to the Internet or closed to the world inside the virtual walls of centralized control? University moguls, thinking in lockstep as hardcore Communists, decided that the Internet was an imperialistic conspiracy and a tool of propaganda. To maintain the ideological purity of the universities, they decided to keep the Internet at arm's length. Serbia and all the Yugoslav republics would become members of the European Academic and Research Network. EARN was organized around the BITNET network, which offered e-mail exchanges between academic institutions and avoided direct interactive communication. The BITNET model was obviously inferior to the Internet. It seemed attractive, though, to Communist loyalists: it opened a basic communication channel, but only for a closed group around the universities. Even more attractive for future possible censorship was the fact that EARN was organized through central national hubs - and Yugoslavia's hub was the Institute for Statistics of Serbia, which was utterly loyal to the Milosevic regime.«7
Due to this policy there was no public internet service provider (ISP) in Yugoslavia; so B92's Opennet became the first one. Funded by the Soros Foundation and with the help of the Dutch ISP xs4all, who agreed in September 1994 to host B92, opennet.org was opened in November 1995. It adopted an access policy and expanded to include a 64-kbs line used for the streaming of RealAudio files to the Serbian Independent Information server www.siicom.com/odrazb while the old link to www.xs4all.nl continued to provide interactive services and e-mail at 28.8-kbs as well as audio and video files. In addition, Opennet began operating in Novi Sad, following the initiative of B92 in laying the foundation of a national independent electronic media network, ANEM. This network's bandwidth has since been boosted to include RealVideo. Opennet became the tactical center for B92 to ensure that its broadcasts were distributed either directly to listeners or via the BBC, Voice of America (VOA), Radio Free Europe (RFE) and Radio Liberty for rebroadcast. The internet was the mode to subvert restrictions and Opennet assumed the identity of B92 while also training the public in new technologies, helping to distribute newspapers to other towns in order to overcome bans on and problems printing some newspapers in Belgrade, publishing banned newspapers on the internet, designing software for web applications, transport, installation and configuration of computer equipment and software and other technical support for independent media.
Opennet soon became a platform for various activities, especially for other projects and companies that were established around B92. A printing house developed well, as did a record label; magazines like Femina, Media and Rec were founded. The most prominent project turned out to be Cinema Rex: In spring 1994 a building was rented with the idea to turn it into a television studio, but this was politically unfeasible. Adrienne van Heteren, by then resident fund-raiser in B92's marketing department, suggested that the space called Cinema Rex would make an excellent cultural center. Indeed, that was its initial function as a Jewish community center. Nationalized after World War II, Cinema Rex provided pensioners with a center for cards and bingo. Eventually Cinema Rex served as its name suggests before becoming a derelict storage space. B92 capitalized on this situation, and Cinema Rex functioned as one of the sole alternative art spaces in Belgrade, especially as the Students' Cultural Center had fallen victim to the political situation and the Youth House (an appartachik controlled entity) continued in a desultory fashion.
The development of the different branches made B92's structure and attitude change: »During its early years B92 was the wild, uncontrolled element of the Belgrade airwaves. If we didn't surprise ourselves, then we were not satisfied. Over the years, we learned that the importance of information free-flow within repressed societies was more meaningful than our personal, selfish approach. So we sacrificed a part of that to make space for a mission which was more socially responsible.«8 The sacrifice turned B92 into less a free radio and more a commercial one: airtime was sold for advertisements, the staff professionalized and got wages, the access to the microphones was not open to everybody. B92 became an enterprise whose internal structure is little known. It is said to be owned by its employees; other rumours claim that B92 did not only receive money from Soros funds and other international donors but indirectly from US-government, and that Opennet is owned by the Netherland's KPN Telecom. The commercialization could be perceived as a betrayal of the principles of free radio; however, the circumstances under which B92 was operating were scarcely similar to those of free radios in the west; and even though B92 never objected to their image of being somehow a free or a pirate radio, the station is dedicated to principles of liberal journalism: News have to be balanced, researched in-depth as much as possible, people should be depicted as individuals rather than as members of particular ethnicities, developments are more important than events - principles that made accessible informations that were withhold or suppressed by state media.
To strengthen the position of independent media within the country in the early 90s B92 initiated the creation of a nationwide network. Founded in 1993, the Association of Independent Electronic Media (ANEM) dedicated itself »to provide citizens with timely, accurate and balanced news, political analysis and public information« along with building »solid commercial management structures for self-sustainability;«9 this, for instance, should include a central advertising sales department). The six founding members (Radio B92, Radio Boom 93, Radio Antena M, Radio Bajina Basta, Radio Smederevo, NTV Studio B) agreed to exchange programs (mainly news produced by B92), collaborate with reporting local news, enhance professional journalism by training, help out with equipment and technical knowledge and support each other in case of bans and other measurements of censorship - all what independent stations needed to operate those years. As stations - especially in later years - covered not only the cities but rural districts, too, ANEM became an opponent to Milosevic's power: his voters mainly lived on the countryside where before state-controlled RTS held the media-monopole.
Tactical use of the internet, ANEM, commercialization and the roots in opposition movement turned out to be the ingredients of a strategy that kept B92 going during Milosevic's reign. It made the station less vulnerable as it was provided with enthusiasm, sophisticated equipment, professional staff and a national and international network of supporters helping to pay both. This strength became obvious in the mid-90s. By then B92 had become one of the most influential media in Belgrade, and via ANEM, in the whole of Yugoslavia. The Zajedno coalition's protest against Milosevic's stealing of the vote after local and federal elections on November 3rd 1996 coincided with students' protests against the hardline rector of the university. And though the students' demands were not those of the Zajedno coalition and vice versa during the Winter of Discontent, Belgrade saw its citizens rallying through town for 88 days and nights. The marches, or walks, became the epitome of Bakhtinian carneval, the participants offering whistles, drums, fireworks, flowers, pots, pans, pets, beauty contests (to some observers' chagrin) and a medley of resistant techniques even when the tension rose and violence was imported into the city by Milosevic: supporters bussed in cradling portraits of Slobo violently attacking Zajedno supporters. The opposition however was heterogenous itself: along with those advocating democratic changes there were students flashing the three-fingered chetnik gesture and critical of Milosevic for his forfeiture of Serbian interests in Knin and capitulation to Dayton. Updates of the day's activities were posted daily on the University's web pages. The walks continued as the OECD and other international organizations looked on. Rallies expanded to include over 300,000 as participants became more involved: attendance rarely flagged. The noise crescendoed with the daily broadcast of the state news that reported judicial vacillation on the election. B92 simulcast from the crowds, fed international news programs its local coverage (for news is a commodity), and provided correspondents, fixers and infrastructure.
The media coverage of the protests, distributed via ANEM-stations and newpapers all over Yugoslavia, forced the government to react. Radio Smederevo and NTV Studio B had already been banned before November 27 when broadcasts of B92 were cut off during newscasts or were jammed by unknown transmitters. On December 1 in Cacak (a city that had elected Zajedno, too) five private stations, of which only some rebroadcasted B92's news, were banned.10 The jamming of B92's signal continued until December 3, when, along with Radio Boom 93 of Pozarevac, it was finally banned. The Federal Ministry for Transport and Communication offered as an explanation that B92 had no valid licence. A few days later the station was informed by RTS that due to heavy rain water penetrated the coaxial cable connecting studio and antenna. Coincidentally on the very same day a technician appeared to install a line for direct communication with the Dutch ISP xs4all B92 had requested months before. Banned, the broadcasts were immediately redirected and sent via internet: »Under these conditions it is very important to react rapidly and find a way for the station to keep operating in the face of all the odds. Surviving without broadcasting for three or four days would suffice to inform the domestic and foreign public and to fight back against the repression. To this end we contacted our colleagues from the VOA, RFE and BBC to ascertain how they could help us in distributing our news program. These stations at the time were broadcasting programs in Serbian on the medium-wave band and via satellite. It took us only a few hours to arrange for our first news program to be broadcasted via VOA's transmitter. Our bulletin was sent via phone and internet in compressed RealAudio format to transmitters abroad, from where it was rebroadcasted back into the country on the medium-wave band. With the assistance of Progressive Networks (RA producer) and xs4all, we managed to live over the internet (webcast). Soon RFE joined in what had become a mechanism to overcome the ban on our radio station. In the process a solidarity movement emerged which was to support B92 in the face of government repression. The following day B92 printed supplements which were published as part of independent daily newspapers and thus distributed around the country. (...) The influence of B92 was now much stronger than before the ban, rendering it absurd and counterproductive for the regime. Now the number of demonstrators increased significantly, the regime's intentions were unmasked and the demonstrations themselves became the focus of international media attention.«11 B92, off the air, became part of those news itself. Continuing their news service via the internet they received international support from journalists, politicians, artists, musicians and even the exiled crown prince Alexander that made the government change its mind: As soon as December 5 B92 received another letter by RTS informing it that the technical problems had been solved and broadcasting could start again. B92's website by then had some tens of thousands hits per day.
The lift of the ban however could not be mistaken as a signal of general liberalization in Yugoslavia: on the contrary. The Zajedno coalition soon split after the elections were finally acknowledged by the government in February 1997. Vuk Draskovic's Serbian Renewal Party, a significant part of the coalition dismissed their Belgrade's mayor Zoran Djindjic, took control of the city council and later started to collaborate directly with Milosevic. And when in March 97 the first draft of a new Law on Public Information of Serbia became public, it gave a prospect of what governmental policy on media could be expected in the next years. The proposed regulations were rather obscure. Along with unfeasible ideas like individual or corporate owners should not broadcast radio or TV programs that cover more than 25 % of the overall population of the republic, the law introduced the establishment of a Board for the Protection of the Freedom of Public Information - an instutution that easily could be recognized as a board for censorship. Under government control the board was empowered to propose »particular measures« to the parliament and other authorities in case of complaints by citizens, journalists and legal bodies concerning the work of the media.
Under these conditions B92 and other independent media did not accept the consequences: Joint pressure lifted the ban on Radio Boom 93 in September 1997, and ANEM grew explosively by associating new members: It counted 19 local radios and 13 TV stations in June 1997, and in next year the network gathered 33 radios and 18 TV stations covering about 70 to 80% of Yugoslavia's population.
With the new media law still under construction governmental media policy remained unchanged. While Marko Milosevic, son of the Yugoslav president, could open his own Radio Madona in Pozarevac, disobedient stations like TV Pirot were searched and banned and their equipment confiscated. And the government was inventive in methods banning without explicitely banning: In May 1998 the Yugoslav Telecommunication Ministry decided upon the applications for frequency licenses, of which 426 had been filed.12 All ANEM-members had applied; except for two TV stations (RTV Pancevo and FKanal in Zagcar) B92 was the only successful radio while other applicants were not even informed about the results of their application. But even getting a license was somehow a ban: At the same time the decision on fees for the temporary use of radio frequencies and TV channels was published, obligatory for those media with a new license. The sums did not only exceed similar taxes in other countries but were simply unaffordable for any station: B92 for instance should have paid more than DEM 6,500 per month. After all, the station refused to sign the offered contract for the license - not only because of the fees but because signing would have meant to agree broadcasting from a location in Belgrade B92 did not apply for and accept that the validity of the earlier contract with RTS on the use of the antenna would have been reduced from ten years to one. An ANEM meeting decided upon strategies to cope with the new situation: All members agreed to broadcast regardless of licenses and fees. Furthermore the association planned to coordinate actions with students and trade unions that faced severe repression, too. And ANEM submitted an initiative for estimation of the constitutional basis and legality of the decision on the fees.
Beside these rather general actions of the government against independent media, B92 received special treatment: After there had been rumours that the Yugoslav Telecommunication Ministry was preparing new attempts to shut down B92 the next attack did not come as a complete surprise: On September 1 1998 a letter from RTS demanded that B92 should remove its transmitter from RTS' facilities not later than November 1, a rather impossible mission as the transmitters were only let to B92 - by RTS. Other stations however were indeed banned and sealed: On July 1 1998 ANEM-affiliate Radio Kontakt in Pristina was closed down after only ten days on air; the station had been working as the only multilingual station in Kosovo and was one of the few examples of collaboration regardless of ethnicity.13 Six weeks later, on August 2 Radio City in Nis was banned. And in October the media landscape suffered another series of hard blows: Radio Senta, a station of the Hungarian minority was closed; a few days later the dailies Danas, Dnevni Telegraf and Nasa Borba were banned. And on October 20 the Public Information Law for Serbia was adopted, prohibiting for instance the relay of foreign broadcasts and imposing accelerated legal proceedings that let little time to prepare the necessary defence: The party accused was obliged to provide proof that the issued information was true; if not the judge would automatically decide that a misdemeanour had been committed for which the the penealty was a fine up to DEM 160,000. With an ironic edge the newspaper Dnevni Telegraf introduced a daily column headlined: »Respecting the decree we haven't published the following news stories ...«14
Both the bans and the new law stood in direct connection with the escalating situation in Kosovo: In spring 1998 the first massacres had taken place, leaving 51 Kosovars dead in the Drenica region - prelude to a policy of scorched earth that was executed with more or less intensity for more than a year. Only after NATO authorized air-strikes on October 13 1998 diplomacy did make Milosevic pretend to collaborate for a last time while the expulsions of Kosovo Albanians did not cease. On March 19, 1999, one day after the negotiations in Rambouillet and Paris had failed, the UNHCR reported a total of 333,000 displaced Kosovars.
B92 was taken off air again on March 24, 1999, a few hours after announcing that the bombing by NATO-forces would commence.15 The staff continued to produce their e-mail news service and a program available via RealAudio and rebroadcasted by more than 20 ANEM-stations in Yugoslavia. On April 2 the station was taken over by a new management loyal to the state with the help of the commercial court and the police.16 When the danger of a ban had been present in the last year, parts of the archive and the equipment were then removed from the radio's premises and brought back after the immediate danger was over. This year the station had taken less precautions, but even though the police showed up every day after March 24th parts of the the music- and the newsarchive could be saved.
The new management did not realize at once what they had conquered. It took them days to take posession of the enterprises, premises and projects connected to B92 and make at least some of them work. Sometimes they clumsily tried to evoke the impression that except for the people running the station nothing has changed. When on April 12th the new management started broadcasting jingles with the voices of the old staff were recycled and used without asking, logos remained unchanged and the CDs produced the years before were sold to make a profit. Nevertheless the aired program suffered grave changes: RTS news was rebroadcasted, and the music shifted to the so-called Turbofolk: »The Turbofolk of today is a mixture of dancemusic, parts of popmusic, hard rock, recently techno and parts of balkan folkmusic including Bulgarian, Rumanian, Macedonian and Turkish elements. So Turbofolk is popular in the countries surrounding Yugoslavia; in a way it was an attack on the cultural life of those nations because it destroyed the local music-production; in Serbia itself, for instance, the rock scene nearly vanished. The government here was very benevolent to Turbofolk and despite their nationalism and hatred against muslims they didn't mind the oriental influence. Turbofolk is music not for the peasants but for urban people and it keeps their minds away from the real problems. It's a big industry and the mainstream today."17
Mainly recruited from the Youth Council of Belgrade and despite they had never worked with radio before, the new management claimed to be the legal possessors: Wasn't it the Council that gave kind of permission to start the project ten years ago? In need of professionals and camouflaging the takeover, the new management tried to convince members of the old station to work for them. All employees were invited one by one to talks in April. A member of the staff recounted: "It was a very unpleasant situation. Although we knew what people we were dealing with I didn't believe that those apparatchiks, figures from Kafka's books still exist. I'm not sure whether they all know about the Beatles. We were asked to collaborate with them - there would be only minor changes. They asked me for instance to work in a show and I asked them: What do you expect me to do? To do what I've done the previous years? They answered that it will be slightly different - the show would have a new title: 'You have to fight for your country with your heart.' I said: Sorry - I didn't work for the children's department and they asked why, what's wrong with the title and I told them that it reminds me on the pioneers from the socialist system."17 No one agreed to work for the new management; even the charwoman quit. 50 employees and 150 freelancers lost their economic base or at least a major part of their income; few had other financial sources; some went abroad, some men were drafted for the army; most of the staff stayed in Belgrade. ANEM, in a meeting held on April 18, suspended the membership of the seized B92.
Being both praised and denounced as being pro-west, independent media had to define their position after the bombing started. On March 30th 1999, Veran Matic, B92's editor-in-chief wrote: »The bombing has jeopardised the lives of 10.5 million people and unleashed an attack on the fledgling forces of democracy in Kosovo and Serbia. It has undermined the work of reformists in Montenegro and the Serbian entity of Bosnia-Herzegovina and their efforts to promote peace. (...) My friends in the West keep asking me why there is no rebellion. Where are the people who poured onto the streets every day for three months in 1996 to demand democracy and human rights? Zoran Zivkovic, the opposition mayor of the city of Nis answered that last week: "Twenty minutes ago my city was bombed. The people who live here are the same people who voted for democracy in 1996, the same people who protested for a hundred days after the authorities tried to deny them their victory in the elections. They voted for the same democracy that exists in Europe and the US. Today my city was bombed by the democratic states of the USA, Britain, France, Germany and Canada! Is there any sense in this?" Most of these people feel betrayed by the countries which were their models. (...) These people are now compelled to take up arms and join their sons who are already serving in the army. With the bombs falling all around them nobody can persuade them - though some have tried - that this is only an attack on their government and not their country. (...) NATO's bombs have blasted the germinating seeds of democracy out of the soil of Kosovo, Serbia and Montenegro and ensured that they will not sprout again for a very long time. The pro-democratic forces in Republika Srpska, the Bosnian Serb entity, have been jeopardised and with them the Dayton Peace Accords. NATO's intervention has also given the green light for a local war against Montenegro's pro-democracy president, Milo Djukanovic.«18
Media not being banned by this time had to cope with the legal regulations imposed by the Ministry of Information on March 24 1999. Journalism there was defined as part of the military action; instructions regarding the vocabulary ordered that the UCK must be referred to as terrorists and criminals. Reports on losses of the Yugoslav Army and the Serbian police were prohibited, and their actions had to be described as the struggle to preserve and defend the country. As with the decrees criminal proceeding were again shortened and simplified, ANEM recommended to all journalists within the association »to take heed, and either remain passive (for those whose work has been banned) or follow the instructions of the Ministry of Information, since the circumstances are such, both in legal and factual terms, that objective reporting, or even reporting which would not be welcomed by the authorities, entails disproportionately high risk, certainly much higher than the possible benefit which might be gained by independent reporting. What has been lost so far since the launch of NATO intervention are independent media. (...) ANEM's view is that if we cannot preserve the independent media (for the time being), we should at least save the independent journalists for the time to come.«19 At this point there had been a loss of life, too: On April 11 Slavko Curuvija, editor of the independent newspaper Dnevni Telegraf had been assassinated by two masked men in front of his house after a few days earlier the Milosevic-loyal daily Politika had accused him of welcoming the NATO bombings. Until today the case has not been solved.
During the wartime B92 again migrated to the internet. After the new management succeeded in cracking B92's and Opennet's websites in May, the exiled and sacked staff set up freeb92.net as a platform for their activities; Cyberrex, the digital branch of Cinema Rex, had already been founded the year before. Parallel and joint with international organizations helpb92.xs4all.nl was set up to coordinate support for the station. At the occasion of B92's 10th anniversary on May 15, NetAid was introduced as a 24-hour-webcast connecting the birthday concert in Belgrade with supporters from abroad: » We wanted to create a virtual radio with the help of our international friends, when we had no way to do it on our own. We called our friends from music scene, rock bands (like Sonic Youth, REM, Mike Watt, etc.) and DJs (like Kruder & Dorfmeister, Mr.C, John Acquaviva, Miles Holloway, etc.) and asked them to participate. Or often, they approached us themselves, as during the bombing their eyes were focused on our story. So it was a sort of a solidarity forum of the international music community, which became sort of a monthly net.radio action which was then rebroadcast on radio by several European stations, from radio Studio B2 in Weimar, to Radio 100 in Amsterdam and Nachbar In Not and FM4 in Austria.«20 NetAid 2, 3 and 4 followed every month until September 15 1999, when the cycle was completed with the announcement that regular webcasts as were to begin end of the month.
Jockeying for control of media was not just an element of domestic affairs in Yugoslavia. Psychological warfare was an integral part of the operation »Allied Force«. Millions of leaflets were dropped to make soldiers desert; often full of grammar mistakes their effect was small. More sophisticated was the production of false news: When Koha Ditore's editor-in-chief Baton Haxhiu hid to escape persecution, NATO announced that he had been killed by Serb forces. On April 30 it became possible that the satellite-uplink supplying bandwidth to two major Yugoslav ISPs may be disrupted on order of the US government, thus making it harder for citizens to obtain news from outside the country. And on April 1 planes of the US 193rd Special Operation Wing aka Commando Solo started their operation, broadcasting from a flying transmitter a TV channel, a medium wave band and four FM channels of which one was at 92.5 which used to be the frequency of B92.
The end of the war in June left B92 a radio without a station: It was unlikely that the new management could be replaced with the help of the courts. So when B92 was offered airtime by radio and TV station Studio B the opportunity was taken even though it was not an easy decision: Studio B was mainly under control of the Serbian Renewal Movement, the party of Vuk Draskovic, who was Milosevic's Deputy Prime Minister until he was dismissed only in April 1999. Emphasizing that any interference in their work would not be accepted the old B92 crew relaunched their station as B2-92 on July 28 with a music program; on August 2 the news program B92 was famous for was again broadcasted. Since all the equipment remained in the old premises after the takeover, B2-92 had to start under rather poor technical conditions. The broadcasting studio was located under the roof of Beogradjanka, one of the skyscrapers in Belgrade from old socialist times. The announcer's studio was a small room with space for hardly more than three people; beside the console was little more to find than a recordplayer, two CD-players and two old reel-to-reel-machines. The offices were accomodated in three or four rooms down at 17th floor with a perfect view over smoggy Belgrade to the building at Makedonska 22 that had been the home of B92 only a few months ago. Within months B2-92 became again one of the most popular stations in Belgrade: »According to the latest surveys we are at the moment number three in Belgrade. The radio station which robbed us of our equipment, our premises, our frequency and our name is in the twentieth place. So much for influence.«21
When martial law was suspended and again replaced by the Public Information Act of 1998 repression continued without any break. Independent media work remained a hard and dangerous job: »The gloves are off!« declared Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj on a pressconference in February 2000 and accused independant media to have been weapons in the hands of NATO and their reporting as »a continuation of the aggression against our country.«22 Journalists were barred from covering events like sessions of the Serbian and the Federal Parliament and they were sometimes detained without any reason. Again media were banned like TV Soko on June 25, 2000; the station's editor-in-chief at that time was still serving a one-year prison sentence handed down to him on April 23, 1999 for displaying a poster in the studios demanding free press for Serbia; others were fined until they went broke; jamming of radio signals was as common as in the years before; dailies and magazines were not supplied with newsprint after the only domestic producer preferred state-media and licences to import paper were not granted by the state. Unsolved sabotage was comitted against broadcasting facilities like on March 3, 2000 when unidentified men wearing police uniforms removed essential parts from a Studio B transmitter after beating up the two guards with their guns. Even seemingly pro-democratic Montenegrian authorities did not hesitate to ban Free Montenegro radio station on October 22, 1999 after it had broadcasted reports criticizing certain ministers of Djukanovic's government. With some sort of sardonic humor Veran Matic commented: »In this way, the regime attempts to hinder any free speech. However, this is also the reason why there is no self-censorship in independent media - the law covers everything and you can be fined for anything, so if you cared about self-censorship you would not be able to work at all.«23
And again B92 was targetted: On May 15, 2000 policemen stormed Beogradjanka and shut down the station for the fourth time in its history along with Studio B and the daily paper Blic; Radio Index, also located in the Beogradjanka, was prevented from regular broadcasts - only a program of music and short news was allowed. Called in by the opposition gouverning the city of Belgrade some thousand citizens rallied the same day - not too much after the glowing promises of opposition leaders the weeks and months before, and by far not enough to make the government lift the bans.
This time B92 was prepared to duck away while continuing to work. Because the premises in the Beogradjanka had been equipped with only minimal and most essential hardware the material losses were not that serious. In forseeing possible developments alternative spaces had been set up before where the production of radio program and its distribution via the internet and satellite was continued only two or three hours after the station was closed down. As in 1996 and in 1999 the signal again was picked up by about 20 ANEM-stations in inner Serbia and rebroadcasted, by this rendering absurd all effords to silence the station: an estimated million of listeners could receive the program or at least parts of it. And in July with the help of Bosnian station Radio Drina B92 even managed to get on air itself. The signal was jammed from time to time, but could be received at least in some parts of Belgrade.
When the presidential elections on September 24, 2000 came closer, the resistance (mainly organized around the Otpor movement) grew along with the oppression. The fear of loosing those elections made Milosevic and his government wage their last battles. Propaganda (RTS devoted 81% of its airtime to report positively or neutral on Milosevic; only 19% was dedicated to mostly negative reports on opposition candidate Vojislav Kostunica) was combined with threats to deporte foreign journalists and to refuse them credentials while their domestic colleagues were still barred from parlamential sessions, pressconferences and rallies. Even after the Kostunica's victory was hardly to deny the government tried to stay in power and hindered the publication of the election results. When employees working at RTS-controlled TV Novi Sad demanded changes to this broadcasting policy six of them were dismissed on September 29. Similar measures now only fueled resistance. Even state-controlled stations refused to rebroadcast RTS-news, journalists and other media workers along with local citizens made hardline directors resign and joined the general strike that ended in an astonishing peaceful transition of power when on October 5 demonstrators attacked and set fire to the Federal Parliament and the RTS-buildings. B92 covering the protests from the streets in real time was helped by the activists, too: the same day a group of Otpor-activists entered the premises in Makedonska 22, made the new management of B92 go and handed the station over to its previous owners. The radio stayed intact: along with most of the equipment even the cups for coffee stayed at the same place where the old crew left them, and some days later they were even given back Opennet's hardware.
Old habits die hard: After new president Vojislav Kostunica - himself a rather nationalistic politician - was sworn in, state media assured him their loyality by blaming Milosevic for all the desasters of the past decade and praising democratic changes: »The rhetoric might be different, but the approach and the usage of media language are uncannily similar. There are already numerous critiques of newly born state media that they merely changed the subject, but not the single-opinionated and exclusive approach to it. Adopting pluralistic thinking, as proven many times, is not a short-term process and it might take quite some time before genuine open-mindedness finds it way in Serbian media.«24
The role of B92 in this process is quite open: After the political changes finally began its members had worked for the bygone years, the station had to cope with the likewise changing economical system. Funding from the west, one or: the most important source, could become harder to access, competition with other applicants might get tougher, and there are plans to turn B92 into a brand with some merchandizing. Whether and how this development will affect the attitude of the station is hard to foretell - even under the rules of capitalism, radio in Yugoslavia will hardly be the same as it is under average conditions in the west.
1998: ANEM, the Network of independent electronic Media in Serbia.
1999: Analysis of the instructions of the Serbian Ministry of
Information for the work of the media in the state of immediate danger of
Djukanovic 2000: Zoran Djukanovic: The Best Radio in the Worst System in
Europe. Interview with Veran Matic. Integral version of an Interview
published in De Groene Amsterdammer, January 12th 2000.
1999a: Bombing the Baby with the Bathwater.
1999b: Veran Matic: Authoritarian Society and Information Guerilla:
Discovering the Values of Civil Society with the Help of the Net (The Case
of B92). Presented at the International Studies Association Conference,
February 17-19, 1999, Washington DC
2000: Interview with MediaChannel.org
1998: Sasa Mirkovic: Building ANEM - the role of Radio B92. Presented
at the conference Media for a Democratic Europe, Belgrade
December 4-5, 1998
Pantic 1999: Pantic 1999: Drazen Pantic: independent Media in Serbia - Ten Years After. In: Media Studies Journal, 1999.
1999: Keeping The Faith. An Interview with Gordan Paunovic by Honor
Harger, August 1999
Diefenbach/Eydel 2000: Feindliche Übernahme. Interview mit Gordan Paunovic. In: Katja Diefenbach/Katja Eydel: Belgrad Interviews. Berlin 2000
Pejovic 2001: Katarina Pejovic: The Many Faces of Change. In: programm-zeitung Radio Helsinki, Graz; Nr. 2/2001, p. 5 f.