25 September 1997


World Press Freedom Committee protests threat by U.S. and NATO officials to jam pro-Serbian radio and television broadcasts

Incident details


(WPFC/IFEX) - The following is the full text of a letter sent by
the World Press Freedom Committee (WPFC) to U.S.A. Secretary of
Defense William Cohen in regard to threats by U.S. and NATO
(North Atlantic Treaty Organization) officials to jam pro-Serbian
radio and television broadcasts in anticipation of possible
interference by Serbian government forces in elections held last
week. The WPFC wants NATO and its members to reject the
possibility of using radio jamming as a weapon of peacekeeping in
Serbia or anywhere else in the world.

"Secretary of Defense William Cohen

Department of Defense

Washington, DC, 20301

"Dear Mr. Secretary,

"We are dismayed to learn that officials in the United States
Department of Defense and in NATO -- all known as leaders in the
promotion and protection of democracy around the world -- have
been considering as a serious option the jamming of Serbian radio

"Deplorable as those transmissions and their messages might be,
they are most effectively countered, we believe, by encouraging
vigorous public discussion -- rather than by its repression.

"This month in Sofia, Bulgaria, hundreds of journalists and other
press freedom advocates gathered under the auspices of the United
Nations and UNESCO for the fifth and final regional seminar on
promotion of an independent and pluralistic media.

"The United States, Serbia and many NATO member countries were
among some 40 European nations represented.

"They heard the compelling story of how Radio Station B-92 defied
Serbian government attempts to silence the station, and how B-92
eluded jamming in part through enterprising use of the Internet.

"The seminar participants loudly applauded this courageous action
by B-92 and its co-founder and director, Sasa Mirkovic. And they
adopted the attached `Sofia Declaration' affirming the principles
of free expression.

"But even as Mr. Mirkovic was describing how free speech had
survived efforts to silence it, and an internationally recognized
document affirming the principles of press freedom, defense and
NATO leaders were apparently devising plans to assault those very
principles in their dangerous and unfortunate strategy for
dealing with an admittedly vexing problem.

"We strongly urge you and our NATO allies to be mindful that
these principles are firmly established not only in the First
Amendment to the United States Constitution, but in numerous
international resolutions based in those of the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights' Article 19: `Everyone has the right
to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom
to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and
impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of

"Further, radio jamming is forbidden by both the World Allocation
of Radio Frequencies (WARC) and the International
Telecommunications Union conventions. And Kofi Annan, when he was
head of UN peacekeeping operations, refused as illegal a proposal
for U.N. forces to jam Khmer Rouge radio.

"We who value fundamental human rights must be among the first to
defend and uphold them. If one group, government or alliance can
ignore these principles because that group or government is
`correct,' why should not another group claim the same privilege,
in the name of its own cause? Who is to make the determination
of which group is `right' and which is `wrong.'

"We applaud B-92 for resisting jamming.

"We cannot condone jamming the `bad' Serbian government

"We step onto a slippery slope toward selective authoritarianism
when officials take it upon themselves to determine when to
support free expression and when to suppress it.

"We implore you to refrain from resorting to the repression used
by the very tyrants you seek to oppose. Efforts to silence a
demagogue are not worth risking mortal damage to democracy.

James H. Ottaway, Jr.


Marilyn J. Greene

Executive Director

cc: Gen. Wesley Clark, supreme commander, NATO forces in Europe
NATO B-1110, Brussels"

Recommended Action

Members and subscribers are invited to send similar appeals to

Appeals To

William Cohen
Secretary of Defense of the United States of America

General Wesley Clark
Supreme Allied Commander of NATO forces in Europe

c/o the Public Affairs Office of the Pentagon
Fax: +1 703 695 4299

Please copy appeals to the source if possible.


World Press Freedom Committee
11690-C Sunrise Valley Dr.
Reston, VA 20191

Fax:+ 703 6206790
Bosnia and Herzegovina
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