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Subject: [Fwd: IWPR'S BALKAN CRISIS REPORT, NO. 26]
Date: Thu, 29 Apr 1999 14:43:53 +0200
From: Zarana Papic <zpapic@EUnet.yu>
To: Zarana PAPIC <zpapic@f.bg.ac.yu>



-------- Original Message --------
Subject: IWPR'S BALKAN CRISIS REPORT, NO. 26
Date: Thu, 29 Apr 1999 10:11:22 +0100
From: "Tony Borden" <tony@iwpr.net>
Reply-To: listmanagers@iwpr.net
To: info@iwpr.net

WELCOME TO IWPR'S BALKAN CRISIS REPORT, NO. 26, 29 April 1999

SESELJ'S REVENGE. Draskovic was a PR figure for the West, to try to
soften
the most radical aspects of the Belgrade regime. Now the fig leaf is
off.

THE TELEVISION WAR. A central pillar of the regime's power had been
shaken,
and the battle over public information has begun to claim many victims.

BCR ARCHIVE. IWPR's Website <www.iwpr.net> now hosts a search engine to
access the entire archive of 100 recent articles covering all aspects of
the Balkan crisis, written by leading independent journalists and
analysts
from the region.

*****************************************************

IWPR's network of leading correspondents in the region provide inside
analysis of the events and issues driving crises in the Balkans. The
reports are available on the Web in English, Serbian and Albanian;
English-language reports are also available via e-mail. For syndication
information, contact Anthony Borden <tony@iwpr.net>.

The project is supported by the European Commission, Press Now and the
Carnegie Corporation.

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Editor: Anthony Borden. Assistant Editing: Christopher Bennett, Alan
Davis.
Internet Editor: Rohan Jayasekera. Translation by Alban Mitrushi.

"Balkan Crisis Report" is produced under IWPR's Balkan Crisis
Information
Project. The project seeks to contribute to regional and international
understanding of the regional crisis and prospects for resolution.

The Institute for War & Peace Reporting (IWPR) is a London-based
independent non-profit organisation supporting regional media and
democratic change.

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Tel: (44 171) 713 7130; Fax: (44 171) 713 7140 E-mail:info@iwpr.org.uk;
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The opinions expressed in "Balkan Crisis Report" are those of the
authors
and do not necessarily represent those of the publication or of IWPR.

Copyright (C) 1999 The Institute for War & Peace Reporting
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*************************************************

SESELJ'S REVENGE

Draskovic was a PR figure for the West, to try to soften the most
radical
aspects of the Belgrade regime. Now the fig leaf is off.

By a correspondent in Belgrade

Vuk Draskovic's appointment this past January as deputy prime minister
of
Yugoslavia fed his overstated ambition and tickled his Serbian
romanticism.
But to President Slobodan Milosevic and the key parties in the governing
coalition, the purpose was more concrete, and he has been sacked because
this purpose became moot.

Draskovic, a firm if chaotic nationalist, had led the major street
demonstrations against the regime two years earlier and was generally
welcomed in the West. He was therefore a useful figure to try to
persuade
the Western powers that Belgrade was serious about its offers for
political
autonomy for the Kosovo Albanians (without NATO troops).

After several tough steps by the government--such as adopting a
draconian
Information Law and fuelling growing tensions between Milosevic and
Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic--Draskovic's task was to ease
international pressure. As a symbol of the former "nationalist
opposition,"
Draskovic's co-option into a position of power effectively left Serbia
without any opposition, and appeared to signal his acceptance of the
regime's policy in Kosovo.

With the start of the NATO bombing, Draskovic assumed an almost constant
presence on CNN, the BBC and other international media, trumpeting
Belgrade's line that Albanians were fleeing Kosovo because of the
bombing,
and otherwise wearing down listeners with his own bombardment of
obfuscations and absurdities.

Now, at least figuratively, he is tossed back out on the streets. On
Wednesday, April 28, Yugoslav Prime Minister and Milosevic loyalist
Momir
Bulatovic dismissed Draskovic-reportedly because of pressure from
Vojislav
Seselj's Serbian Radical Party and the Yugoslav United Left whose chief,
Mira Markovic, is Milosevic's wife. Jealousies over the extent of his
public role may have played a part, as Draskovic had been receiving so
much
attention, especially abroad. But more importantly, with the regime at
war,
radical Serbia is ascendant, and it sees no purpose in holding out even
the
appearance of an opening to the West.

The implications are severe. Draskovic may have been positioning himself
for a role as a potential partner with the West after the war. But any
early prospects of a moderate course are extremely low. As Seselj stated
Tuesday, "National unity in Serbia cannot be slammed by small
politicians
trying to cooperate with the aggressor and offering themselves to NATO
as
potential allies."

One of the key points in Draskovic's statements over his own Studio B
television in recent days was that the UN Security Council would decide
the
composition of a UN forces in Kosovo. Now, opposition to any kind of
international troops in the province will only be hardened. Serbia will
not
agree to anything.

The Serbian Information Ministry, which is controlled by Seselj, has
issued
a ban on broadcasting any statements from Draskovic or his Serbian
Renewal
Party. The other key point made by Draskovic in his televised statements
was that Yugoslavia had to face the fact that it could not defeat NATO.
Statements critical of the regime by Vuk Obradovic, leader of the
Socialist
Democratic Party and a former general, were even censored from
international broadcasts. This is the usual way of solving problems in
Serbia: shoot the messenger.

The correspondent is an independent journalist in Belgrade.


THE TELEVISION WAR

A central pillar of the regime's power had been shaken, and the battle
over
public information has begun to claim many victims.

By correspondents in Belgrade

Five weeks of air strikes have changed the media order in a country
where,
for ten years, the state has held the sovereign right to control
television
truth. Now the struggle over television in Yugoslavia has become
synonymous
with the fight for the survival of the regime.

After repeated attacks against Radio Television Serbia (RTS), the
majority
of Serbia's population is unable to watch RTS channels. The destruction
of
the RTS building in the centre of Belgrade, which may have claimed more
than 20 victims with many more wounded, and the bombing a few days
earlier
of the 20-plus storey office building in New Belgrade where transmitters
of
other TV channels close to the regime were situated, has forced Belgrade
to
take urgent steps to ensure that the government and its message stays on
the air.

On Monday, April 26, Minister for Information Aleksandar Vucic, a member
of
the Serbian Radical Party of Vojislav Seselj, called an urgent meeting
of
the editors-in-chief of private television stations and asked them to
take
over the broadcast of RTS programmes, in particular the vital news
programmes Dnevnik 2 and Dnevnik 3. Studio B, effectively owned by
Draskovic's Serbian Renewal Movement, also had to comply with this
request.

This meeting took place only a day after Draskovic's controversial
interview on Studio B. A central part of these remarks were Draskovic's
criticism of state television for hiding the truth about the current
military situation, as well as for the viciousness of the vocabulary
used
towards the West. He also supported international troops in Kosovo. In
short, he said everything that normal Serbs are apt to say once they are
in
the privacy of their own homes. And that was the real danger.

Even though Draskovic himself has parroted the party line throughout the
bombing campaign, it seems he could no longer support the unsupportable.
The clampdown on all major independent media and the imposition of
war-time
censorship on the rest has ensured full state control of the flow of
information. The bulk of the Serbian population has not seen a single
picture of Albanian refugees nor any news about atrocities in Kosovo.

In recent days, the vocabulary of RTS has become even more radical,
describing NATO leaders as "bloodsuckers", "fascists", "paedophiles",
"imbeciles", "idiots", "morons" or "retards". According to RTS news,
NATO
is crushed, Serbia's peace-loving politics have won, America will pay,
and
Europe is on her knees. Serbia is defending the planet from fascists,
and
has saved its people from Western criminals--and cloned sheep (the
current
epithet for US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright). Everyone must
show
their gratitude towards Milosevic for taking them into the new
millennium.

To break with this propaganda is to break with the regime. As the
Draskovic
interview became the key story--Ministry of Information censors banned
Danas daily from publishing it, while Studio B re-ran it five times--the
regime took over the broadcasts of private TV stations. Currently, the
information programmes of RTS are re-transmitted by TV Palma, TV BK, TV
Art, TV Politika, as well as TV Studio B. With Draskovic's sacking, the
moderate course has firmly lost the internal war in Serbia, and it can
be
expected that Studio B will be fully taken over by the government.

The ever-more ruthless propaganda suggests that Yugoslav President
Slobodan
Milosevic is prepared to accept numerous civilian casualties in order to
prove himself absolute ruler of Serbia. Unofficial sources in Belgrade
suggest that the government took a decision to make sure that lives were
directly put at risk over the struggle for the media.

Reports have circulated that workers at the RTS building were
blackmailed
and threatened with sacking if they refused to work the night time,
graveyard shifts. In the days preceding the NATO bombing, it was evident
that the building in Aberdareva Street was a NATO target, and there
seemed
little doubt that it was going to be hit. If these speculations are
true,
the implication is that the regime is complicit in these deaths.

A week before the bombing, all of its employees had gathered on the
street
and formed a human chain around it. One of the people in the chain was
the
Serbian Minister of Culture Zeljko Simic. Three days before the attack,
the
CNN crew moved from the building to work from the Hyatt Hotel. Twelve
hours
before the attack, members of the state media union organized a protest
in
front of the building, with banners declaring: "Long live RTS".

The rally marked the first public demonstration in support of Radio
Television Serbia--the heart of the regime which, for a decade, has
advertised ethnic cleansing and extreme nationalism, orchestrating
hate-campaigns against Slovene, Croats, Muslims and, finally, Albanians.
Now, after the attack, the regime stresses that the people in the
building
were mobilised at a time of war and were doing their patriotic duty. The
killings, Belgrade argues, demonstrate the evil of NATO.

"Criminal NATO aircraft targeted the building of Radio Television Serbia
at
2.06 AM on Friday April 23, while a news programme was being broadcast,
trying to kill the truth about their monstrous bombardments of our
country," RTS declared several hours later, when it returned on air via
other transmitters. "NATO is naive to think it can destroy the truth by
bombing," the editor of Vecernje Novosti, Serbia's biggest selling
daily,
wrote shortly afterwards.

A special weekend edition of the pro-regime newspaper Politika declared:
"Stupidly identifying the state TV as a source of political power, the
criminals in Brussels at the NATO headquarters thought they could
destroy
our political leadership." Yet a central pillar of the regime's power
has
been shaken, and the battle over public information has begun to claim
many
victims.

The contributors to this report are independent journalists from
Belgrade.

IWPR'S BALKAN CRISIS REPORT, NO. 26

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