BOB GARFIELD: In Serbia, authorities have made more than a thousand arrests in the course of investigating last week's assassination of Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic. The sweep is intended once and for all to root out the corruption that has long dominated Serbian politics and much of the economy. No arrest was more shocking to Serbs though than that of the pop singer and sex symbol known as Ceca, widow of the notorious Mafia strong man and war criminal called Arkan. The post-assassination state of emergency has kept some details from the public, but it has been reported that police found a vast arsenal of illicit weapons in her home. Joining me now from Belgrade is Alexandra Niksic, a correspondent for Agence France Presse. Alexandra, welcome to the show.
ALEXANDRA NIKSIC: Thank you very much.
BOB GARFIELD: Before we do anything else, tell me about Ceca -- who she is, how she got so popular and what she represents.
ALEXANDRA NIKSIC: Ceca is probably the best symbol of what Serbia has gone through in the past decade. She's a singer of the worst possible music you can imagine. It's a combination of our national folk music through electronic equipment, and her voice is completely modulated. [CECA SINGING]
BOB GARFIELD: Turbo-folk they call it.
ALEXANDRA NIKSIC:Yeah. That's it. Besides these really tiny vocal possibilities she has made her career with exposing the body, let's say. That's how she became incredibly popular. She even grew to a huge figure on the so-called Serbian jet set scene when she married Arkan, or Zeljko Raznatovic who is one of the probably most notorious para-military leaders in Serbia. He was gunned down in Belgrade two years ago.
BOB GARFIELD:All right, so just to re-cap, Ceca whose name is Svetlana Raznatovic, is a singer of Britney Spears' level of popularity; she sings a sort of pop-folk that has energized particularly the nationalist elements of the populace in Serbia, and she was married to an alleged war criminal and Mafia leader in his own right, the notorious and late Arkan whose real name was Zeljko Raznatovic.
ALEXANDRA NIKSIC: That's it.
BOB GARFIELD: And they arrested Ceca, the mega-star, and found what in her home?
ALEXANDRA NIKSIC: The investigation has not revealed all the details, but the reporters at the scene saw police pulling out military trucks full of arms and ammunition as well as some military type equipment for night vision. The house where she has been living since the marriage with Arkan is some sort of a castle. It's a four-story building surrounded with high walls, and God knows what else could be found down there. And when all these guys who were admiring her see that she could also be arrested, it would be a clear sign that no one could avoid this really big hunt in Serbia against these alleged organized crime bosses.
BOB GARFIELD: Tell me about the state of emergency. What effect is it having on journalism in Belgrade and elsewhere in Serbia?
ALEXANDRA NIKSIC:Well theoretically it tells the fact that you cannot really publish elements of the investigation if they are not confirmed by the authorities. On the other hand, except two daily papers which were temporarily banned in the past week, everyone else seemed to be doing quite fine.
BOB GARFIELD: What about media owners themself? Have any of them yet been caught up in this?
ALEXANDRA NIKSIC:Not yet, except for an editor in chief of one of the weeklies which was banned temporarily. This guy, his name is Gradjzi Shakatic [sp?], and he was detained by the police briefly. This weekly which has been banned was a clear example of the forces loyal to Milosevic or to his patriotic ideas, and that is why not that many journalists' unions here or even the readers of the press have complained about the closure of this media. So I would say that the government has been a bit clumsy in these attempts to control the flow of information from the investigation; maybe the ban was not a good thing. But on the other hand this is the first time that the authorities in this country are trying to do something against the organized crime.
BOB GARFIELD:In the United States we are seeing an erosion of our own civil liberties through the war on terrorism, and the American public is not too upset about it. Do you think there's a parallel there -- that the Serbian people are just so fed up with the Mafia controlling every aspect of their lives that they'll live with a little state of emergency and some erosion of their civil rights?
ALEXANDRA NIKSIC: It seems that everyone here believes that these measures were necessary. The only complaint you can hear is that why haven't they done it before?
BOB GARFIELD: Well Alexandra, thank you very much!
ALEXANDRA NIKSIC: You're welcome!
BOB GARFIELD: Alexandra Niksic is a correspondent in Belgrade for Agence France Press. [CECA SINGING]
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Coming up, a look back on war reporting from the Crimea to Kosovo.