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Croatia: Government Backing Away From Radio Decision

Zagreb, 22 November 1996 (RFE/RL) - The Croatian government yesterday showed signs of backing away from its attempt to shut down Zagreb's popular, independent Radio 101.

The moves follows sharp criticism of the closure voiced by both the United States and Britain, and as dissent over the closure mounts in the Croatian capital.

After street demonstrations yesterday in Zagreb involving thousands of protestors, the head of the state-controlled telecommunications council said it would open a new tender for the radio frequency that it had withdrawn yesterday from Radio 101.

Council head Branko Mocibob said Radio 101 would be allowed to continue its regular broadcasts until a new decision on the frequency is reached. Yesterday, the council had said Radio 101 would stop broadcasting on November 30.

Meanwhile, a rival station owner who had obtained the frequency said today he is renouncing the concession "in favour of Radio 101."

The U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe says that the closure of Radio 101 is a "major step away from freedom of expression" in Croatia. Commission chairman Congressman Christopher Smith (R-New Jersey) and co-chairman Senator Alfonse D'Amato (R-New York) said that no matter what reason the government offers, the move reflects a policy of restricting freedom of expression when views might lead to "an erosion of support for the party in power."

The Croatian government said yesterday the station had become "too politicized" and was not objective. Radio 101 has been critical of Croatian President Franjo Tudjman's party during the past year.