A brave fight to save B-92

Robin Hamman tells how a Belgrade radio station was able to defy Milosevic, if only briefly

Until 2 April, Radio B-92, an independent FM station based in Belgrade, had been a respected source of independent news in the Balkans, winning a number of international press and media awards, including the prestigious "Free Your Mind" award presented by MTV Europe in 1998. Its broadcasts of music and uncensored news reports were heard across Serbia through a network of local partner stations. Its signal was also picked up by the BBC World Service and retransmitted via satellite around the world.

B-92's coverage of anti-government protests in Belgrade in 1996 and recent events in Kosovo, against the wishes of the Milosevic government, meant that it has always operated under the constant threat of closure. On 23 March, with Nato bombardment imminent, the transmitter of Radio B-92 was confiscated by the authorities and its editor-in-chief, Veran Matic, was held in custody at a police station for more than eight hours. But B-92 stood its ground and continued to provide music and news via its website (www.b92.net) for 10 days. This was made possible through the co-ordinated efforts of B-92 staff and Internet activists across Europe, who launched the Help B-92 campaign.

In early March, many of these activists had come together for the Next Five Minutes Tactical Media Conference (www.dds.nl/n5m) in Amsterdam, where discussions took place on how best to organise and run campaigns using the media. Plans were made for using the Internet to develop support networks and resource-sharing among allied groups. At the conference, Radio B-92 staff had given a presentation about their work and the various partnerships they had already set up.

According to Geert Lovink, a prominent Dutch media activist, talks between B-92 and other groups throughout Europe started as early as 1992. In 1993, an organisation called Press Now! was set up to support independent media production in Yugoslavia. The Help B-92 campaign, which was organised by Lovink and other activists, is a continuation of the support network started with Press Now! In addition to providing technical support for B-92 and other independent news providers in Yugoslavia, campaign organisers set up a bank account for donations. They have been publicising the plight of B-92 and are providing a contact point for journalists and others interested in the war.

Because of the dangerous political situation and frequent crackdowns against the Serbian media, B-92 decided early on to allow xs4all, an Internet service provider started by a group of Dutch media activists, to host its site from the Netherlands. By doing this, they hoped to keep the site out of the reach of Serbian officials. The Dutch ISP also provided the expertise and backbone needed for B-92 to create its own ISP in Serbia, which was used to link independent media producers throughout the country.

In December 1996, B-92 supported political demonstrations against the Milosevic regime, in the process becoming the most listened-to station in Belgrade, before Serbian officials banned B-92's broadcasts. In response, B-92 began using technology from Real Networks to stream live audio broadcasts and short video clips from its website.

Following the government ban on B-92's terrestrial broadcasts in March, the Help B-92 campaign's Web-savvy support group was able to help the station continue to provide Real Audio streams of music and news. The campaign secured a pledge from Real Networks to provide an unlimited amount of audio and video stream connections to B-92. Anonymous e-mail lists were developed to protect the identity of those wishing to express their views about the war, and message boards linking to the campaign site buzzed with information. Encrypted e-mail services were provided for journalists and others in Yugoslavia who found themselves under threat. The campaign created a website banner in support of B-92, which is now displayed on hundreds of sites around the world, and more than 15 million visitors are reported to have accessed the B-92 site since the beginning of the Nato bombardment.

Then, on 2 April, 10 days after they confiscated the transmitter of B- 92, Serbian police entered and sealed B-92's offices. All members of staff were sent home and a new general manager was appointed by Serbian officials. The former director of B-92, Sasa Mirkovic, issued a statement through the website vowing that B-92 would "find a solution how to continue broadcasting our signal and to inform all our audience all over the world. At the end, I would like to say that we all have to keep the faith."

Although the B-92 website remains online, visitors are no longer able to access live news and music streams. Subsequently the campaign, along with members of Press Now!, has started a project called Open Channels for Kosovo (www.dds.nl/openchan nels). According to Richard de Boer, a project spokesman, Open Channels is an information service rather than just a support group. Activists are working to translate and post e-mails, messages, audio reports and other information coming from independent news sources inside Yugoslavia.

Drazen Pantic, a Serbian mathematics professor who was awarded the Electronic Frontier Foundation's 1999 Pioneer Award (www.eff.org /promo/ 99pioneer.html) for his work developing OpenNet and other B-92 networking initiatives, confirms that "for now there is no [risk] of the B-92 page being hijacked by the regime". However, Pantic concedes that it appears unlikely that B-92 will be able to resume providing live content online under present circumstances.

By closing B-92, the Milosevic regime may have succeeded in softening the voice of one independent news source in Serbia. However, because of the distributed nature of the Net, and the well-organised support networks of activists using it, the regime has little chance of silencing the flood of independent news coming out of Serbia and Kosovo.

"People will continue to send e-mail as long as there are telephone switches," says Geert Lovink. "But if Nato bombs them [the switches], the telling of stories by independent sources in Yugoslavia will also end."

Donations to the Help B-92 campaign are being used to provide support and equipment for the continued broadcast of independent news in and from Serbia and Kosovo. For more details, see the Help B-92 website (helpB92.xs4all.nl) or e-mail helpB92@xs4all.nl

Arts and Entertainment
TVDessert week was full of the usual dramas as 'bingate' ensued
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
Arts and Entertainment
Prince and 3RDEYEGIRL are releasing Plectrum Electrum next month

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'

Arts and Entertainment
Steve Carell in the poster for new film 'Foxcatcher'
filmExclusive: First look at comic actor in first major serious role
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Kingston Road in Stockton is being filmed for the second series of Benefits Street
arts + entsFilming for Channel 4 has begun despite local complaints
Arts and Entertainment
Led Zeppelin

Arts and Entertainment
Radio presenter Scott Mills will be hitting the Strictly Come Dancing ballroom
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce performs in front of a Feminist sign at the MTV VMAs 2014

Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has taken home the prize for Video of the Year at the MTV Video Music Awards 2014

Arts and Entertainment
Peter Paige and Scott Lowell in Queer as Folk (Season 5)
tvA batch of shows that 'wouldn't get past a US network' could give tofu sales an unexpected lift
Arts and Entertainment
books... but seller will be hoping for more
Arts and Entertainment
John Kearns winner of the Foster's Edinburgh Comedy Award with last years winners: Bridget Christie and Frank Skinner
comedyJohn Kearns becomes the first Free Fringe act to win the top prize
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Sue Vice
booksAcademic says we should not disregard books because they unexpectedly change genre
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Muscato performs as Michael Crawford in Stars in Their Eyes

Arts and Entertainment
‘Game of Thrones’

Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

    Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

    Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
    Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

    Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

    The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
    America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

    America’s new apartheid

    Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
    Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

    What is the appeal of Twitch?

    Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
    Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

    How bosses are making us work harder

    As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
    Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

    Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

    As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
    Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

    A tale of two writers

    Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
    Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

    Should pupils get a lie in?

    Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
    Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

    Prepare for Jewish jokes...

    ... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
    SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

    A dream come true for SJ Watson

    Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
    10 best cycling bags for commuters

    10 best cycling bags for commuters

    Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
    Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

    Paul Scholes column

    Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
    Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

    Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

    A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
    Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

    The science of herding is cracked

    Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
    Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

    This tyrant doesn’t rule

    It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?