Journalist Miroslav Filipovic sentenced to seven-year prison term
(RSF/IFEX) - In a letter to the president of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Slobodan Milosevic, RSF expressed its indignation over the seven year jail sentence received by Serbian journalist Miroslav Filipovic for "espionage" and "spreading false information". This sentence, the heaviest yet imposed on a journalist by the Serbian authorities, is an additional step in the Yugoslavian authorities' policy of repression against press freedom and freelance journalists," explained RSF Secretary-General Robert Ménard. He added that "press freedom is totally flouted by Slobodan Milosevic's regime, which readily takes extensive measures to gag the independent press: fines, threats, licence withdrawals, restrictions on the delivery of newsprint, arrests and now imprisonment of journalists who express opinions contrary to those of the government." RSF demanded Filipovic's "immediate release, and the withdrawal of charges against him". The organisation recalled that in January 2000, the United Nations special rapporteur for freedom of opinion and expression stated that "imprisonment for the non-violent expression of an opinion is a serious violation of human rights."
According to information gathered by RSF, on 26 July, Filipovic, a correspondent for the independent daily "Danas" and Agence France-Presse in the central Serbian town of Kraljevo, was sentenced to five years in jail for "espionage" and three years for "spreading false information" by the Nis military court. The presiding judge finally decided to sentence the journalist to a single seven-year term. Filipovic, first arrested on 8 May in his Kraljevo flat by members of the security police, was released on 12 May. He was again detained ten days later. On 13 June, he was charged with "espionage and spreading false information". The indictment was based on articles about the activities of the Yugoslavian army, published on the Internet site of the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR), an independent London-based organisation for which the journalist is also a correspondent. Filipovic had notably gathered testimonies by members of the Yugoslavian army, condemning Serbian acts of violence in Kosovo. He has decided to appeal to the Military Supreme Court.
RSF pointed out that since the beginning of the year, approximately fifteen independent media have been closed in Serbia. Over 200 electronic media have been unable to renew their licenses and are threatened with closure. About thirty media have been sentenced to pay heavy fines amounting to a total of 28 million dinars (US$2.4 million, 2.6 million euros) over the past 20 months.