The Reuter European Community Report, 1/10/95
Members of European parliament from six countries representing a broad cross section of political opinion have sent telegrams to the presidents of Serbia and of Croatia expressing concern over measures to stifle press freedom in both those countries.
The telegram to President Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia expressed concern over the fate of the daily newspaper Borba, whose staff has been resisting a government takeover since last December 23, when the Belgrade government [Serbian capital] imposed its own Minister of Information as the newspaper's new Director. The MEPs stressed that restoring Borba's independence ``must be considered as a major yardstick for defining our position on our relations to Serbia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia [``Rump" Yugoslavia]."
A similar telegram to President Franjo Tudjman of Croatia focused on the case of the satirical weekly Feral Tribune, which is being harassed out of exsistence by imposition of a heavy state tax for ``pornography" (not imposed on any other newspaper) combined with a cascade of libel suits brought by politicians who object to the paper's critical coverage.
The MEPs, following a meeting in the European Parliament in Brussels condemning [lack of] media freedom in both Croatia and Serbia, told president Tudjman that they had agreed that ``unhindered freedom for Feral Tribune (especially with respect to absolutely abnormal taxes imposed on this paper) must be considered as a major yardstick for the media situation and democracy in your country and in defining our position in our relations to Croatia."
In their message to both presidents, the MEPs stressed that:``We consider media freedom as essential for development of democracy in each country, and for improvement of relations between your country and European Union."
They also reminded President Milosevic that European Parliament, in its December plenary session in Strasbourg, adopted a resolution of support for Borba.
The initial signatories of the messages to the two Presidents were:
At their meeting, the MEPs agreed to intensify eforts to put press freedom high on the European Union's list of priorities in regard to relations with Croatia, Serbia and other countries in the region.