Attacks on the Press "a sign of Milosevic desperation" says the IFJ

THE International Federation of Journalists attacked the expulsions and threats to journalists in Belgrade over the weekend as a sign of "increasing desperation by a regime afraid to face the consequences of democracy".

A group of 20 foreign reporters was Friday instructed to leave Serbia within 24 hours. While waiting for accreditations the reporters were told that their visas had been cancelled and that they had to leave. No other explanation was offered. The group comprises journalists from Finland, Norway, Portugal, Britain and Germany as well as one Ukrainian.

"The regime of Slobodan Milosevic is indulging in a desperate fight for survival in which they want to blame the messengers for the bitter truth they cannot face - that the people want them to go," said Aidan White, General Secretary of the IFJ. "They are the tactics of desperation of a regime afraid to face the consequences of democracy."

The IFJ called on the Milosevic regime to lift all restrictions on reporters both foreign and local. "Censorship and intimidation will not solve the crisis in Serbia," said the IFJ. "It is time now to open the doors to democracy and to end the isolation of the country. Attacks on journalists only reinforce the international image that the country is afraid to embrace the challenge of peace, stability and democracy."

The IFJ has been refused access to Serbia to meet with its affiliates in Belgrade, but has strongly supported efforts by the international community in recent months to help journalists and independent media in the country who have been targeted by the Milosevic government. " Journalists will not be silenced by bullying from an obsolete and corrupt regime. These latest actions only strengthen our resolve to campaign for change in Serbia."