McKenzie Wark on Thu, 1 Apr 1999 11:57:59 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> kosovo/internet (fwd)

Date: Fri, 02 Apr 1999 05:09:04 +1000
From: jon casimir <>

Main story

"Last night," Sevdie Amehti writes, "NATO threats came true. Messiles
started to fall like rains on Prishtina. Some five of them were seen and
they were furtive. They looked like flames and falling like stars. One
of them ... was so furtive that those watching from the windows felt the
rush of the windblow on their nose and chest."

Amehti's grasp of English might be an awkward one, but his grasp of
technology is not. And so it is that his descriptions of events in
Kosovo have joined the steady flow of eye witness reporting, refugee
information, making its way from the Balkans to the world via the

And in every one of his words is the truth that if the first task of
modern war is to take control of the media, the arena in which battles
are increasingly fought, then the Net makes it a trickier proposition.

Last week the Serbian Government expelled journalists from NATO
countries. It closed a satellite service that feeds live video to the
worlds' major broadcasters. It also clamped down on internal media,
shutting radio stations and tightly controlling what is seen on
television. But it has so far been unable to do much about the DIY world
of the Net, where the flow of independent information can route around

Indeed, in every conflict of the last decade, from Tiananmen Square to
the Gulf War to Sarajevo, email has helped to bring the rest of us
closer to the action. Though wartorn countries do not tend to be those
with high Internet penetration, there are always a few people, often
students in capital cities, who have access to the outside world and
something to say.

In this instance, Amehti's words were relayed not by a student, but by
the unlikeliest of sources, Father Sava Janjic, a Serbian orthodox monk
who lives in the 663-year-old Decani monastery (west of Pristina near
the town of Pech).

Since July last year, Fr Sava has been using the tools offered by the
Net (a mailing list and a Web site) to spread word of events in his
region. The 33 year old monk keeps in contact with a circle of other
observers by phone and email. He surfs the Net for news to relay, often
disseminating material banned by Belgrade.

With a government reluctant to silence a monk, he has taken it upon
himself to dispute the official versions presented by the media machines
of both sides, and has been as critical of the actions of Slobodan
Milosevic as he is of the NATO air strikes.

"It is my moral obligation," he wrote last week, "to say that the
statements  by the NATO officials that only military targets are
attacked in Yugoslavia are not true and they are intended to deceive
many peace loving people in the West that their air force is in a
'humanitarian' action."

While NATO was huffing about its accuracy, Fr Sava was saying his
"credible sources" were telling him that dozens of civilian facilities
(infrastructure, education, telecommunication, environment and traffic
facilities) had been destroyed as well. But it is his concern for the
everyday lives of Serbs and Albanians, for the human cost of the crisis,
that is most affecting.

At a time when much of what we see and read in the mass media seems
either stage-managed or heavily massaged, the first-person words of
ordinary people such as Fr Sava and Amehti have a startling clarity to
them, even though their expression can be faltering. They make it hard
to see war as an arm wrestle between powers. They make it hard to accept
terms like the Gulf War's "collateral damage".

Sure, the reader has to judge the extent of personal biases, to decide
whether or not to trust the author's view, but these are small hurdles.
And really, not so different from the decisions we must make about
"official" reporting.

Raw, first hand reports (most of these reporters can be emailed back
too) are finding their way onto mailing lists, newsgroup discussions and
Web sites such as that belonging to The Institute for War and Peace
Reporting (, a London-based, non-profit, pro-democratic
group which specialises in what it calls "inside analysis", on the
ground pictures from correspondents named and unnamed.

"Until few days ago," one wrote this week, "I felt very sorry for the
Albanian people suffering in the villages and all they were going
through. I don't anymore. Now, I fight for my own survival. I try to
stay alive and as normal as I can, though it's difficult. This morning,
I almost collapsed out of breath while running towards my house to see
if my parents are still OK. There's no phone, so every time I go to
spend a night somewhere else, I kiss my mother and my father, and have
the terrible feeling that I won't see them anymore."

Mailing lists such as the Syndicate ( and Kosovo
Reports ( are beginning to bulge
with volunteer journalists offering their impressions. Belgrade resident
Srdjan Stojanovic has been filing his thoughts to the latter list, set
up to channel precisely this kind of informal media.

"Throughout this ordeal," he explained on Sunday, "I have tried to write
stories with very personal perspective, unlike pro journalism and
reporting ... I have tried to explain and paint for you the picture of
worried human beings in Yugoslavia, victims of vicious political play
and hypocritical media."

Meanwhile, Belgrade's Radio B-92, Serbia's main independent media voice,
is using the Net in another way, defying the government's attempts to
shut it down. Though it has been unable to access radio frequencies
since last week, the station continues to broadcast twice a day online,
using a secret base and making the bulletins available via a Netherlands
Web server.

B-92 is using its Web site to disseminate video as well as audio, with
footage of the Belgrade bombings. On the weekend, it also began to
upload diaries of Belgrade residents, more eye witness reporting.
International media action groups have formed a B92 Support Group to
raise money for the station, and to make sure it, and others like it,
retain guaranteed distribution measures for independent news to find its
way out.


Milos, Belgrade
The people of this community rarely have the chance to leave the air
raid shelters, since bombs are falling ever closer to my home, day and
night with few and short interruptions of cease-fire. The shelters are
literally packed with people - Serbs, Gypsies, a few ethnic Albanian
families, refugees from Bosnia, and maybe I'm even missing some other
ethnic minorities (I apologize to them). They are mainly frightened,
some cry, some comfort the ones who are crying, some stare with empty
gazes at the massive concrete walls lost in thought, some try to joke
but the facial reactions are grimaces only faintly resembling smiles or
laughter ... After only four nights, people are weak from lack of sleep
or insomnia, psychologically sapped of energy and strength by their
conscious and subconscious premonitions. They say that only military
targets are being hit, but I have already seen two civilian targets
destroyed by NATO fire-power, and heard of dozens of similar cases from
people I constantly keep in touch with via email or telephone, and lots
of them had human casualties. This has to stop.

Fr Sava, Decani
Mailing list:
Web site:
Several schools have been destroyed and many of them damaged so that
children cannot go to schools any more because there is a danger that
they might be killed in them. The areas with important cultural and
religious monuments are also targeted. Day before yesterday Gracanica
monastery area was attacked. Thank God there is only a slight damage on
the monastery roof but on the other hand several family homes were
burned to ashes. Last night a cruise missile hit the old town in
Djakovica, mostly inhabited by Albanians, and made a great fire in which
several Albanian houses were destroyed and several civilians seriously

Name Withheld, Belgrade
The bombardment isn't hitting civilians so hard physically, but the
psychological effect is terrible. Paramilitary and police forces are
massacring the Albanians in Kosovo en masse. Even some police officials
confessed it (unofficially of course) to some people here. I'm currently
not at home. I'm using a friend's computer. I've spent the last day or
more at a friend's apartment. If you get any info on what has been
hit\targeted here, forward immediately ... There've been random reports
of military police picking people off the streets. None confirmed, none
from eyewitnesses. They have been "visiting" the apartments of people
who were supposed to report for mobilization, but didn't (all people
who've served in the military) I didn't see 'em, and I live in the
downtown, so I think that they haven't been doing it much in Belgrade. I
don't think I'll be spending much time at home. The MP's won't catch me
if I can help it, but please try and arrange for something if I have to
get out.

Srdjan Stojanovic, Belgrade
I haven't gone many times to the air raid shelters. My friends do go,
but being underground and cut off from communications is more
frightening than being on the 9th floor (where we live), watching from
balcony and following the satellite TV coverage of events... Today
Belgrade people wanted to do something special: There was a mid-day free
open air concert at the Republic Square in downtown Belgrade... Many
popular rock, jazz and folk groups performed, despite air raid alarm
being on... Some 50,000 people gathered. Peace activists were passing
around posters and badges shaped as shooting targets, and a lot of
banners were held. Most of them ridiculed Bill Clinton, Nato and Uncle
Sam... Since our defense downed a famous stealth bomber F-117 today,
many jokes were on its invisibility, invincibility etc...

Slobodan Markovic, Belgrade
Just back from atomic shelter under my house to pick up more blankets
and pillows... There was HEAVY air-raid on Belgrade this night. Warning
sirens turned on after series of heavy detonations... It was too late...
Whole building in which I live was shaking like it was an earthquake and
windows screeched. I jumped out from bed and run to window. I was almost
blinded with great orange-red ball of fire, some 5-6 km to the east of
my house. Two more explosions followed, probably cruise missiles... It
was bloody near! I woke up my brother and we run to the atomic shelter.
On the radio I heard that chemical plant was hit and something leaked...
My friend, who just dialed me, told me that almost whole city felt some
chlorine-like smell. They are talking on TV right now that air-warning
is not over yet, that we should expect one more (aircraft) raid very
soon and to immediately go to shelters...

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