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ANEM Network - September 1999Belgrade
Die Rückkehr des ANEM Netzwerks

Return of the ANEM Network

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Summary - Association of the Independent Electronic Media of Yugoslavia was the most influential independent media network, with ratings that were a serious threat to the monopoly on information held by the Radio Television of Serbia, and as such, experienced the destiny of one of the first "collateral damages" of the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia. Regimes repression, as well as the lack of understanding from the some of the western bodies, inflicted the substantial damage to the ANEM. However, ANEM managed to survive the war, keep people's confidence, restore the functionality of it's radio and TV network, and is continuing it's struggle for the better, free information.

Association of the Independent Electronic Media (ANEM), after the series of protests that broke up in the 1996/97 provoked by the stolen communal elections, managed to group to it's membership over 40 radio and TV stations from Serbia and Montenegro, and to form a radio network on the basis of professional, true and on time reporting, a network that covered more than 75% of the territory of Yugoslavia. In very short time ANEM radio network ratings become higher than the ratings of the radio program of the Radio Television of Serbia (RTS). The backbone of the network was the news program of the Radio B 92 with reports of the other ANEM members. In order to prevent the numerous obstacles set by the Yugoslav legislation, ANEM radio network found out the unique technological system by combining the up-to-date technical solutions, Internet's modus operandi and satellite broadcasting. Radio signal was sent out of Yugoslavia by the phone (to avoid the monopoly on satellite communications of the Yugoslav Telecom), where it was up-linked to the orbital satellite. All the stations in the network were equipped with the satellite receivers; the signal was received and simultaneously broadcasted through the local stations transmitters. This made possible to avoid proceedings for obtaining any licences from the Federal Ministry of Telecommunications and other Government Offices, whom from the very beginning realised that the network was the threat to the absolute monopoly on information held by the RTS. The network was operating without the Yugoslav satellite up-link and without the expensive system of the terrestrial relay stations. This networking model soon became an example of an "alternative" linking of the independent media in other countries, and even the RTS itself tried to do the same when during the NATO bombing most of it's terrestrial broadcasting system was destroyed. Development of the ANEM TV network started in the similar way. Quality programs were obtained, production started as well as the training and the preparations for the building of the central TV news studio. Regime was from the very beginning hostile towards ANEM. Stations were banned on various reasons. On last years Federal Ministry of Telecommunications public tender from more than 40 applications for the radio and TV frequencies submitted by the ANEM members with complete documentation, just two frequencies were granted. But the final turning point was the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia. From that moment on, regime decided to play extremely rough and to start the clash with the media already called the "mercenaries, traitors and spies". Independent media, especially ANEM, was the first collateral damage of the NATO bombing. When it becomes clear that the war was inevitable, even before the first bombs were dropped on Yugoslavia, on March 24th, 1999 Belgrade Radio B 92 was banned. Since this haven't stop the broadcasting of the ANEM satellite news, Radio B 92, as the backbone of the ANEM network and the strongest single independent media in Yugoslavia, was illegally and with the police assistance took over by the newly appointed management, which fired all the employees and usurped all the offices and the equipment of the both Radio B 92 and ANEM. This stopped the satellite distribution of the program of the ANEM network, but it soon appeared that most of the ANEM members in the other cities were capable and determined to, even in the conditions of war, resume the independent reporting. ANEM members were linking to each other, and exchanging it's programs. This led to the even stronger repression towards the ANEM members throughout Serbia (ANEM members in Montenegro were somehow spared thanks to the "protection" of the reform government of Montenegro). Aside from the drafting of the editors in chief and journalists of the ANEM members (editors in chief and journalists of the pro-government media were never drafted), direct repression started on the March 25th, when independent Radio 021 from Novi Sad ("second largest city in Serbia" as often described on the CNN during the numerous and cruel bombing). On the March 27th, TV Soko from Soko Banja was banned, and editor in chief of this station was in summary proceeding sentenced to one year of imprisonment for the sticking of the "FREE PRESS" poster in the window of the station. On the March 31st, Radio Jasenica from Smederevska Palanka was banned. On the April 2nd and 3rd, radio stations in Kikinda and Senta were banned, as well as TV Cacak and TV Kuršumlija. Reasoning of the decisions stated that these two stations were "operating contrary to the interest of the defence of the country". On June 18th, RTV Devic from Smederevska Palanka was banned, and son of the owner of this station was beaten and seriously injured by unknown attackers. Censors were appointed to the other stations, or they were ordered to broadcast the program of the RTS on it's frequencies. Journalists and other employees were constantly threatened with lynch. Despite this drastic measures and state of war declared in Yugoslavia, majority of the stations found the strength to keep on broadcasting. TV Soko from Soko Banja was closed down 3 times, but despite that resumed to broadcast. Banned RTV Kuršumlija never actually stopped to broadcast. Other stations, as for example RTV Pancevo which covered city of Pancevo and major part of Belgrade, become the symbol of the true reporting in the war conditions, and rare oasis in the radio-waves, free from RTS propaganda. ANEM stations in Cacak, Kraljevo, Kragujevac and other cities in Serbia were first to report on Yugoslav Army reservists rallies, and citizens rallies that started right after the end of the war. Result was higher ratings of the most of the ANEM members during the war, or right after the war. On July 26th, Radio 021 from Novi Sad resumed broadcasting, and other banned ANEM members are getting ready to resume broadcasting despite the still valid decisions on their closing. Original team of the "real" Radio B 92, as the part of the campaign for liberation of the seized Radio B 92, started on August 2nd 1999 to broadcast 12 hours of news and music program daily, with the old program scheme as the model, and under the name of B2 92, in co-operation with Belgrade based station Studio B, which program took the top of the ratings in Belgrade in just seven days. Simultaneously with the hardest so far repression of the Yugoslav authorities, ANEM faced, at the beginning of the war, major misunderstanding from some of the influential West European countries and institutions which were supporting ANEM earlier in it's struggle for democracy and professional reporting in the region. Under the absurd accusations for inadequate reporting on Kosovo crisis and NATO bombing, and after Radio B 92 and ANEM journalists refused to leave the country and start working on projects of broadcasting program from abroad and under the western patronage, while the same West was bombing Yugoslav citizens, ANEM for first time encountered international isolation. It was time consuming and required lot of efforts to explain to some people that the concept of the independent, professional and credible information, could only be held out through the Radio and TV programs broadcasted from within the country, and that ANEM is not, and will never be weapon of anyone's propaganda, because that is contrary to it's basic principles of existence. After the war ANEM and it's members are encountering numerous difficulties. All stations are in very difficult financial situation, employees are underpaid, equipment is considerably damaged and destroyed (NATO bombing inflicted more damages by destroying ANEM emitters, which were often located near to the RTS emitters, than Federal Ministry of Telecommunications did in the years of closures and seizures of the equipment). There are practically no income from the marketing. Equipment and premises of the ANEM and Radio B 92, once central ANEM station, are still in possession of the usurper management. Anyhow, people that were the skeleton of the ANEM network, journalists in the stations, ANEM members are working hard to restore and preserve the project of ANEM radio and TV network against all odds.

ANEM Radio network re-established it's system of satellite transmission and started to broadcast again on April 4th 1999, only two days after forming of the new Radio B2 92. Program of that Radio and parts of the programs of the other ANEM members, can be heard simultaneously in the most of the Serbia (ANEM networks coverage of the territory of Serbia is now the same or even better than the coverage of the destroyed RTS system). Both radio and TV network re-established it's mechanisms for exchange of the programs and action co-ordination. Obviously, the new battle with the regime is to begin, since they will try to clash this most serious threat in the media field. It is also necessary to create conditions that will help stations to maintain to broadcast during the autumn and winter, in the conditions of total international isolation of Serbia, lack of electricity, finances, equipment. It is necessary to continue with the programs of training for the journalists, to continue with the technical and legal aid for the ANEM members, to restore regional media co-operation and in that way to promote principles of tolerance, integration, mutual understanding and reconciliation. Today it looks like an impossible mission, but people of ANEM believe that with their hard working, with the help from the friends from the country and abroad, and especially with the help of journalists and their professional associations and organisations, most of this goals will be accomplished. After being knocked down in the war, ANEM is back on the track. Situation is more difficult than it was before, but ANEM feels stronger now, with it's undisturbed credibility, with even stronger determination to survive and to help with it's professional work and reporting necessary changes in Serbia, changes that will bring Serbia back to the Europe and the World.

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