CEOL - Serbia to step up ripostes to 'western propaganda'

BELGRADE, Dec 27, 1999 -- (Reuters) Yugoslavia's main republic Serbia said over the weekend it would step up action to counter what it called an ongoing Western propaganda war against the country.

"The next year will be even more difficult than this one. We have no illusions because we know who our enemies are and we know how those who conducted military aggression against our country will continue to exert pressure," Information Minister Aleksandar Vucic told a news conference.

He said his ministry would start publishing daily bulletins in English, open new Internet web sites and work closely with state media on satellite transmissions of their broadcasts.

"As a country we have been exposed throughout this year to permanent information torture from the Western media and their local branches...," said Vucic.

"After the war, the pressure has continued. It may be a signal for an attempted new aggression or a political occupation of the country."

By "war," Vucic was referring to NATO air strikes on Yugoslavia that forced it to halt a mass purge of rebellious ethnic Albanians in Kosovo and withdraw troops and police from the province, which is now under U.N. administration.

Montenegro, War Crimes Tribunal Cited As Propaganda Targets

Vucic said the pressure was expected to take the form of media reports on Montenegro, Yugoslavia's reformist, pro-Western republic now estranged from leftist Serbia, and activities of the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague.

"What is the aim of the West? Their media will focus on Montenegro, preparing ground for fresh political pressure on Yugoslavia. And except for two local media, no electronic media in Montenegro would oppose this occupation," he said.

"The Hague tribunal is another topic for the Western media. But the Serbian government has prepared a web site where it will unveil the truth on the crimes of the Hague tribunal. The Serbian government will fight this propaganda and disseminate the truth about the tribunal," he added.

Serbia and Montenegro have been increasingly at odds over the past two years as the small, coastal republic seeks to break away from what it sees as the damaging leftist nationalism of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.

Milosevic is one of five senior Yugoslav officials indicted by the tribunal for alleged Serbian atrocities against ethnic Albanians during the Kosovo conflict.

Vucic, a member of the ultra-nationalist Serbian Radical Party, a coalition partner to Socialists and neo-communists in the Serbian government, said an important aspect of Western pressure was the financing of some local media.

He singled out the independent news agency Beta and the daily Danas as among those receiving aid from abroad.

Such financing came from the Open Society Fund of billionaire financier George Soros, the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR, the European Union, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, according to Vucic.

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