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Serbian Nationalists Protest RFE/RL Use Of Serbia, Kosovo Maps

Serbia's Nasi group organized a public celebration of the birthday of then-fugitive war crimes indictee Ratko Mladic in March.
A Serbian ultranationalist organization has protested RFE/RL's Balkan Service's use of maps on its website depicting Serbia's former province of Kosovo as an independent country, RFE/RL's Balkan Service reports.

Nasi issued a statement on October 26 in which it says that the website of RFE/RL's Balkan Service contains "incorrect" maps of Serbia without Kosovo and lists Kosovo as a separate Balkan country.

Kosovo declared independence in 2008 and has been recognized by the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, and 81 other countries.

In Nasi's statement, which was posted on its website and distributed by e-mail, the group calls for the removal of the map and urges the government in Belgrade to react to the "provocation."

"Until then, we call on the citizens of Serbia to inform RFE/RL journalists in a polite and cultured way about how the map of Serbia should look and draw their attention to this mistake," the statement said.

Journalists form RFE/RL's Belgrade bureau say they have received dozens of calls since October 26, some of them from children who said that "they were told they had to call all of the bureau's numbers and draw attention to the mistake about the map of Serbia."

A map of Kosovo painted on a wall with the words "Kosovo is Serbia" in Belgrade.
A map of Kosovo painted on a wall with the words "Kosovo is Serbia" in Belgrade.
The callers have been persistent but polite, the journalists said.

There has been no official reaction.

In a statement, RFE/RL Regional Director Nenad Pejic said there was no reason any group in Serbia, Nasi included, should not have the right to express itself.

But he added: "Nobody has the right to threaten any journalist and I take [Nasi's action] as a violation of journalistic freedom and an attempt to interfere in the editorial policy of RFE/RL. We expect the Serbian authorities to take measures, protect our Belgrade bureau staffers, and allow us to do our job in regular circumstances."

Jelka Jovanovic, vice president of the Independent Association of Serbian Journalists (NUNS), condemned the Nasi protest as a threat and "an attack on Radio Free Europe and a witch-hunt against a medium that reports in a very professional way."

Jovanovic called on the authorities to investigate, adding that Nasi represented a "retrograde Serbia that again tries to bring us back where we were about 20 years ago."

Nasi regards Kosovo as Serbian territory occupied by Kosovo Albanians and NATO after the 1999 war, during which NATO bombed Serbia to force it to leave Kosovo and end the repression of ethnic Albanians there.

The group supports Serbs either convicted or indicted for war crimes against Muslims, Croats, or Albanians in the Balkan wars of the 1990s as martyrs persecuted by the West, which is biased against Serbia and the Serbs.

The group has regularly staged protests that sometimes turned violent.