Teresa Crawford on Mon, 3 May 1999 06:47:04 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> When Western Television Silences the "Other Serbia" (30/4/1999, AIM Athens)

fwd: from a friend in Germany


    respect of the dignity of man is a matter of everyday usage too

"We are using INTERNET with respect to the netiquette and urge all
Yugoslav users to avoid hostile and insulting vocabulary. We also pledge
to all our international contact people to exercise their influence on
INTERNET public opinion to avoid aggressive language and hatespeech in
correspondences to people in Yugoslavia." 
    you can read at the end of following text by AIM

Not all Serbians are barbarians, not all Albanians angels
 - and vice versa. - And no war can be human.

When Western Television Silences the "Other Serbia"

Nafsika Papanikolatos
Greek Helsinki Monitor and Minority Rights Group - Greece
(30/4/1999, AIM Athens)
In the weeks since the beginning of NATO strikes an overview of major
Western media sources leaves one quite uncomfortable by the almost
complete or superficial information concerning the consequences of the
strikes on Serbia. In contrast, there is an overflow of information on
the undoubtedly tragic and unacceptable daily exodus of thousands of
Kosovo Albanians who are forced to flee to the neighboring states. This
of course is most remarkably noticeable in the electronic media. But
television has after all the power to reach and to influence the
greatest number of persons and therefore holds the greatest
responsibility in making a balanced presentation.      

An enticing example was the conspicuous silence about an important
event, which reveals the previously authoritarian and, now in war
conditions, totalitarian character of the Milosevic regime: the near
complete lack of coverage of the sad and disturbing news of Slavko
Curuvija's murder outside his home by two men wearing dark clothes and
face masks. The murder of the publisher of Dnevni Telegraph, critical of
the Milosevic regime, was simply no news for western electronic media on
11 April. Hour after hour, CNN, BBC World, Sky News, and, in the evening
FR3 did not even allocate 20 seconds to inform their audience of the
event; while, time after time, for example, they covered the capture and
humiliating parade in Serb media of an Australian humanitarian worker,
certainly an appalling story but of lesser magnitude than the murder of
a Serb independent publisher. The latter immediately drew an avalanche
of protest statements by a dozen international and regional NGOs, As the
International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) explained in its
statement: "There are many others like him still working in FRY. Without
them the Yugoslav population would not have had any information from a
non-governmental perspective. We are very concerned that as the tension
rises in the country, attacks against Serbian journalists will
increase."  Even after these reactions, the murder remained no news for
these television stations.

Nonetheless western electronic media do not hesitate to bombard us with
voices from Serbia. Voices though which help legitimize in the West the
strikes since they present an image of a society drowned by nationalist
passions and anti-democratic sentiments. "Watching BBC I have the
impression that they seem to select on purpose Serbs who defend Serbia
in a clumsy propagandist and extremist way that can only please other
Serbs but not the average Western viewer," said a good friend and human
rights defender still living somewhere in FRY (hence the anonymity
requirement). The same is true for the other electronic media mentioned
before. This is symptomatic of an alarming bias these media have shown
since the beginning of NATO strikes. The voices or even the fate of
Serbian genuine NGOs and/or independent media (with the exception of a
few minutes for Radio B92's closure) are of no concern. 

Prime Minister Tony Blair accused John Simpson, BBC's main war
correspondent in Belgrade, for presenting Serbian propaganda about the
damages incurred by NATO air-strikes and for simplifying the truth by
presenting that this conflict in fact strengthened Milosevic. As he
recently explained in an interview to Greek television, the British
government did not want to hear about the consequences that the air
strikes had on Serbia itself. And he added, that he ought to have been
now in Kosovo, but since Serb authorities do not allow him to go there,
"in Belgrade my duty is not to present what either the Serb regime or
NATO would like to hear, but to become the eyes and the ears of BBC
world viewers." (Mega Channel, 28 April).

Belgraders are shown merely in a naive frenzy of patriotic singing and
dancing every night in the Square of the Republic while Serbia appears
to be a homogenous society, with no individuals, no opposition, and no
democratic rights' culture. At the same time, there is an almost
complete absence of information on the new decrees and laws such like
the one issued on 9 April by the Serb Ministry of Internal Affairs. That
law transformed overnight this authoritarian state into a totalitarian
one, permitting state authorities to limit the movement or detain for
longer than 24 hours a person who is "disturbing public order and peace"
or "profiteering with food." Henceforth, people can be sent away in
detention if state authorities feel they are dangerous for the security
of the Republic, apartments can be searched and mail can be opened. At
the same time, while the large majority of the Serbian population
ignores the existence of Kosovo Albanian refugees being displaced by the
thousands daily, Western audiences have rarely been informed on the tens
of thousands of Serb refugees, who were forced to leave because their
relations with the regime were already difficult and now in a state of
war have become impossible or those who happen to live near possible

Western electronic media has also ignored half a dozen statements made
by representatives of civil society. Perhaps because it would have been
disturbing for Western audiences to hear that the committed democratic
and pro-Western forces are opposing the strikes and feel that the latter
had as "collateral damage" the destruction of what was a just emerging
civil society.  Their statements are distributed through Internet, the
last resource they have to communicate to the West, and never seem to
reach any western electronic media, since they do not conform to the
logic of a homogeneous Serb society embroiled in its nationalist
passions and ethnic cleansing projects. Thus the western audiences have
little possibility to find out about the other Serbia which struggled
for at least the last ten years against the authoritarian regime of
Slobodan Milosevic. "In the long run", as a prominent representative of
the human rights movement in Belgrade explains,  "the biggest collateral
damage will be the shattered possibilities for democracy in Serbia. ()
The air strikes erased in one night the results of ten years of hard
work of groups of courageous people in the non-governmental
organizations and in the democratic opposition, who have not tried to
"topple" anyone but to develop the institutions of civil society, to
promote liberal and civic values, to teach non-violent conflict

On 6 April seventeen Belgrade NGOs issued a statement. It recalled their
courageous struggle both against war and nationalist propaganda, their
support of human rights, their struggle against the repression of Kosovo
Albanians, the necessity to respect their liberties and guarantees for
their rights, and the return of autonomy of Kosovo. They also stressed
that only through civil society institutions any connection and
cooperation was ever preserved between Albanians and Serbs. And, now all
this has been undermined by NATO military action, endangering the very
survival of the civil sector in Serbia. They made suggestions for
stopping the war and establishing conditions for the resumption of the
democratic process that was underway. An appeal was made to the Serb and
also to the international media to inform the public in a professional
manner and not spur media war, incite interethnic hatred, create
irrational public opinion and glorify force as the ultimate
accomplishment of the human mind. On 16 April, we another statement
signed by twenty-seven democratically minded intellectuals from Serbia
asked that civility prevails. It mentioned ethnic cleansing, the
displacement of Albanians from Kosovo, Kosovo Liberation Army's violence
that is targeted against Serbs, moderate Albanians and other ethnic
communities in Kosovo, the destruction of the economic and cultural
foundations of Yugoslav society, the destabilization of Southern
Balkans, the reinforcement of the regime by NATO attacks, the weakening
of the democratic forces in Serbia and the threats against the reformist
government of Montenegro. With the exception of a few Western
newspapers, these courageous and very meaningful texts went unnoticed. A
false impression has thus been created that there is no civil society
and no critics of the regime left in Serbia which is misleading the
western audiences and hiding a possible democratic and anti-nationalist
alternative for the Serbs themselves

Lack of coverage of how this third sector lives the strikes and how they
are afraid that an "incident" like the Curuvija one may be what is in
line for them only makes these people even more vulnerable, as they have
been repeatedly threatened, individually or collectively, to be punished
as traitors. Moreover, those journalists and activists that the West was
heralding before but has now forgotten feel almost betrayed by the
international community, which is shaped so decisively by the dominant
electronic media. If only to confirm these fears of Western censorship,
the Serb NGOs (20 this time) alerted international community on 26 April
that they may lose their only link with the West, the Internet
connection. Their statement is eloquent.

"We, the representatives of the Yugoslav civil society, coming together
to protest NATO bombing and ethnic cleansing in Yugoslavia now have to
deal with another problem that could uncouple us from the world and
practically forbid our free expression and dissent. One threat is coming
from Yugoslav government agencies and the controlled domestic INTERNET
providers. For them it is important to shut up all independent voices
for which reason they banned the radio B92 and put under control other
independent media.
        For NATO it appears important to cut off all dissenting people
and groups from Yugoslavia in order to maintain the image of Yugoslav
society as if it is totally controlled by Milosevic regime and made only
of extreme nationalists who deserve punishment by bombs.
        For us who are long time activists of human rights, minority
rights, union rights, free press rights, women rights, peace and
democracy activists, it is vital to maintain Internet connection to the
world in order to get information and communicate with people about our
        We are using INTERNET with respect to the netiquette and urge
all Yugoslav users to avoid hostile and insulting vocabulary. We also
pledge to all our international contact people to exercise their
influence on INTERNET public opinion to avoid aggressive language and
hatespeech in correspondences to people in Yugoslavia.


If international electronic media want to truly stand up to the freedom
it enjoys it must turn its eyes and its ears to these voices. And if we
really want a democratic Yugoslavia because we want a democratic Europe
it is about time that we use every means that democratic societies
provide us with to support the democratic voices of Yugoslavia, without
which there cannot be a future for democracy in Kosovo, in Serbia or,
possibly, anywhere else in the Balkans.  
 Betreff: Bosnia-Croatia-FRY-Greece: Shocking Greeks; 
          Western TV Silences the "Other Serbia"; On Montenegro;
          Attacks on Media in Croatia; "Housing Policy in Bosnia; (AIM)
 Datum:   Sun, 02 May 1999 11:02:04 +0300
 Von:     Greek Helsinki Monitor <helsinki@compulink.gr>

Alternative Information Network (AIM) - Athens
P.O. Box 51393     GR-14510 Kifisia     Greece
Tel. +30-1-620.01.20     Fax +30-1-807.57.67
e-mail: office@greekhelsinki.gr   http://www.greekhelsinki.gr

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| Internet: http://www.dillingen.baynet.de/~wplarre |

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