War In The Balkans: Journalist goes into hiding

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The Independent Online
A LEADING journalist in the small Yugoslav republic of Montenegro went into hiding for fear of arrest yesterday - even as his own government sought to protect him from his pursuers.

The extraordinary development provided a vivid illustration of the split between the elected Montenegrin government and the Yugoslav armed forces, still loyal - for the moment at least - to President Slobodan Milosevic. Increasingly in recent weeks, the pro-Belgrade forces have tried to usurp the authority of the Montenegrin government on its own territory. Belgrade is furious that Montenegro, traditionally close to Serbia, now shows a mind of its own.

The Yugoslav army unsuccessfully attempted on Friday to serve a summons on Miodrag Perovic, founder of the independent magazine Monitor and the independent radio station Antena M. The charges contained in the undelivered summons are unclear - but treason is thought to be one possibility. After meeting journalists to describe his situation yesterday, Mr Perovic was whisked away by four burly bodyguards to an unknown destination.

Mr Perovic's main offence is that Monitor and Antena M regularly air alternative views to those of Belgrade. Antena M has ignored army requests to cease transmitting foreign broadcasts, including Voice of America and the BBC. Typical recent articles in Monitor have described the Yugoslav armed forces as "Milosevic's private army", and "an occupying army"; Mr Perovic has argued in print that the Yugoslav federal army is not defending the country from Nato, but from its own citizens.

Theoretically, the Montenegrin government is still part of the Yugoslav federation. It is the only republic in former Yugoslavia that has not yet sought to break away from Serbia's suffocating embrace. Increasingly, however, the two sides are involved in an undeclared war. Montenegro enjoys a freedom of the press that is quite unthinkable in Serbia today. Montenegrins are eager to see the collapse of the Milosevic regime, and only hope that they can be spared the worst effects of the Nato war. Initially at least, Nato seemed to make little distinction between Montenegro and Serbia, a potentially disastrous confusion. The popularity of the reformist Montenegrin president, Milo Djukanovic, was badly dented when Nato bombed Montenegro in the first days of the campaign.

The government continues to put maximum distance between itself and Belgrade - a policy that makes for a difficult balancing act.