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Feature: The Yugoslav Crackdown on Free Radio

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4/3/99

All good things must come to an end, and it appears that's the case with Yugoslavia's B92.  The Belgrade broadcasters had been an unlicensed, full-service community radio station in every sense of the word.

When the NATO air campaign began, B92's importance changed significantly. Only hours before the first bombs fell, Yugoslav authorities confiscated B92's transmitter and arrested and detained its founder for about eight hours.

The station wasn't intimidated, though: it became a coveted source of information to the rest of the world from inside a country under political siege. Internet and satellite uplinks from B92 staffers continued - until Friday.

That's when police units, armed with a court order, sealed off the station and interrupted any further "broadcasts."  B92's director was also replaced by a puppet of Slobodan Milosevic. Interestingly enough, the station's employees have been ordered to report to work on Monday. There has also been an unconfirmed report that someone's hacked B92's website and spammed visitors with an e-mail containing a virus.

While this does seem to be a good sign for those involved with the operation, it'll be interesting to see just what those in charge have planned for them. B92's not apparently alone in its repression, either - at least two other Yugoslav stations have also felt the boot of Milosevic.

The crackdown on free radio in Yugoslavia is now well underway. Now that some stations are completely silent and others compromised, it'll be tougher to keep track of what's really happening inside the country. There's definitely been a polarization in the "free world" media - and, unfortunately, propaganda-style messages have been popping up more and more frequently on each side.

Even so, this crackdown should provide ample evidence that something wrong is happening in the area. Free Radio has turned into Resistance Radio. It's a  small step over that line, but it's happened. Defiance now carries very high stakes.

The thoughts (and prayers, if you're so inclined) of every Free Radio broadcaster and advocate should be with B92 and its comrades.