Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

U.S. Fails to Act on Serbian Abuses

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

U.S. Fails to Act on Serbian Abuses

Article excerpt

A Communist tyrant, humiliated in elections, annuls the results. When huge crowds demonstrate against his corrupt rule, he silences press and television coverage of the protests. And through the crisis no senior official of the U.S. government deplores the tyrant's suppression of democracy and freedom.

That is the strange record of the Clinton administration's response to events in Serbia these last two weeks. As Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic acted out the part of a shameless dictator, we heard not a word from President Bill Clinton or his top national security officials.

Milosevic's cynical character as a leader had hardly been a secret. To secure his power, starting in 1991, he aroused the darkest emotions of Serbian nationalism and let loose the forces that ravaged Bosnia. Then, when that posture was no longer useful to him, he put on the image of a peacemaker and helped bring about the Dayton agreement on Bosnia. But there was still something shockingly brazen in his abuses of the last two weeks. When an opposition coalition won municipal elections in 15 of Serbia's 18 largest cities, including Belgrade, he simply had courts cancel the results on the ground of unspecified "irregularities." People took to the streets day after day, as many as 100,000 in Belgrade. Like all modern dictators, Milosevic has cemented his grip on power by control of the media. When he sought to create a Greater Serbia by aggression, he used television to create fear and hate of Croats and Muslims. His party last year took control of Belgrade's leading newspaper, Borba, and television station Studio B; they became Milosevic mouthpieces. When protests mounted last week, television virtually ignored them. A news broadcaster on TV Serbia said "only a handful of provocateurs" were involved. One independent newspaper, Blitz, did cover the protests. But the state press that prints it turned down a request to increase the press run to 240,000 copies a day from 100,000, and instead cut the run to 80,000. A report by Chris Hedges in The New York Times last week showed how far Milosevic and his family will go to intimidate the press. …

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