Belgrade denies visa to Nobel prizewinner

January 15, 1999

A plan to send a high-profile international academic mission to Belgrade to show support for embattled Serbian academics has collapsed after visas were refused by the Yugoslav government.

The delegation planned a two-day visit to coincide with the release of a new Human Rights Watch report on Serbian restrictions on academic freedom.

Jonathan F. Fanton, president of New School University in New York and chair of the Human Rights Watch board, said: "The government's refusal to allow us in is further evidence of its systematic campaign to dismantle intellectual freedom and isolate independent scholars.

"The Milosevic government has undermined the autonomy of Serbia's academic institutions and harassed and dismissed faculty dissidents, part of an ongoing attack on free expression."

The delegation was to include John Polanyi, 1986 winner of the Nobel prize in chemistry, Standford philosopher Richard Rorty and physicist Sam Treiman.

Meetings had been arranged with members of the Alternative Academic Educational Network, set up by Belgrade staff to teach students off-campus, free from government control. The delegation was also seeing students, including Otpor (Resistance) members.

"The delegation had wanted to help end the isolation of academics in Belgrade," said Professor Fanton, future president of the MacArthur Foundation. "The government apparently saw such contacts as a threat."

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