Between a Propaganda and – a Propaganda
Montenegrin Press on Serbia and Yugoslavia
Author: Snežana Stefanović
The central question in Montenegro today is the question of independence – it remains the source of most drastic divisions within the publicity and the framework for any further discussions. Through polarisation of political parties, the polarisation within public opinion, and thus polarisation within daily newspapers becomes increasingly distinct. Their number in Monte Negro is significant – as many as four. Four daily newspapers for 600 hundred inhabitants is too much, while at the same time also the newspapers from Serbia can be bought in the market every day.
For a “complete” information it would be necessary to spend two German Marks and buy all four of them, knowing at the same time that “complete” does not necessarily mean objective – except if you read between the lines; in that case, one is quite sufficient.
Yet, “Vijesti/News/”, “Dan/Day/”, “Pobjeda/Victory/” and “Glas Crnogorca/Montenegrin’s Voice/” offer a picture of political and social life of Montenegro as it is – insufficiently articulated. A small portion of a committed, studious journalism and education for the publicity remains common denominator. The impression is made that the only aim is to preserve the existing state, which means that journalism consists only of sheer reporting the opinions on status of Montenegro, the referendum of independence and all that, since recently, in the light of the tobacco affair, taken by “Dan” from the Croat “Nacional”, the same affair which, we must admit, partly silenced the President of Montenegro.
Striving for independence by the ruling parties is the most precisely reported by “Pobjeda” and Vijesti” and in doing so, the newspaper “Vijesti” is more unperceivable, discrete and sophisticated. The reports on Serbia and Yugoslavia in “Pobjeda”, when they bring them at all, are always in a negative context. Diametrically opposite to this is “Dan”, which contains a great amount of sensationalism and open hostility for anyone who is against FRY (and SNP). “Glas Crnogorca” remains a great surprise; according to its name, an uninformed reader could presume it agitates for a sovereign and independent Montenegro. On the contrary, it conceives Montenegro as a Serbian country.
However, regardless of all differences in conceptions and political views among these newspapers, they have one thing in common: the sport. Those who advocate independence would also like to see sport as a link between the two republics.
Yet another, more misfortunate and painful common point is poverty; trade union activities, payments in different economic branches, prices in shops, as well as fashion, entertainment, jet-set… do not exist or, with lots of good will, can be found only in minor quantities. At least, that was the case during the monitoring period between 12 and 30 August.
“Vijesti” (http://www.vijesti.cg.yu) – was established during the dawning of independent press in FR Yugoslavia, alongside the Serbian newspapers “Blic”, “Dnevni telegraf”, “Danas” and others. They were once the independent (and only) alternative to “Pobjeda”, while now people call them “Pobjeda” in Roman scripts.
This, as it calls itself independent daily, is edited by “Daily press d.o.o.” from Podgorica. According to some opinions, this newspaper has the highest rate of printed copies. While others limit themselves to 20 pages, “Vijesti” is edited in 24, 28 or even 32 pages. The edition is in Roman scripts, of a modern design and print, with lots of photographs and advertisements, and has pro-Montenegrin orientation.
This daily presents short texts, which almost exclusively serve the purpose of sheer informing. The texts are accompanied by huge provocative titles, which make this newspaper visually attractive. Cover page contains two to three announcements. The newspaper does not avoid reports from Serbia, in particular the affairs, while presentation and assemble of information are very interesting.
For example, cover page of the 14 August issue brings the announcement: “Is DOS dissolving?”, quoting the words by Vojislav Koštunica, President of FR Yugoslavia. The main title is dedicated to the most actual happenings in Montenegro; those days, it was a really massive fire in Budva Coast. The second page is entirely committed to events in Serbia, more accurately, to the murder of former official of the State Security. Without comments and in a very informing way, they are bringing texts by agencies Beta and Fonet, and not by their own contributors. The titles speak on opposing views and quarrelling leaders of Serbian democratic opposition. The third page is dedicated to the political scene of Montenegro, under the title: ”The West should put an end on policy for Montenegro to stay in FR Yugoslavia”. At the very bottom of the page is a short statement of outgoing ambassador of FRY in America, Milan St. Protić, titled: “USA does not support independence of Montenegro”. The result is, so to say, undecided.
Except for the sports block, the remaining 28 pages mention FRY three more times. Once it was the report on Nebojša Pavković, Chief of General-Staff, who visited the fire-threatened areas, while in other two cases in the texts taken from “The Financial Times Deutschland”: on the Belgrade tobacco liaison and contacts made by the Serb Prime Minister, as well as the Reuter’s report of the endangered Kosovo coal-mining site. The sports pages abundantly mention representations of Yugoslavia, of all ages and sports.
However, the point that illustrates orientation of the newspaper better than anything else is the weather forecast – it includes only Montenegro. It also reports on cultural events exclusively in Montenegro and in that context, only artists coming from Yugoslavia are mentioned.
“Pobjeda” (http://www.pobjeda.co.yu) – is the oldest Montenegrin newspaper, composed by the recipe of the Belgrade “Politika”. This newspaper, founded by the Montenegro Assembly, has undoubtedly always been the main spokesman of Montenegro establishment. It is edited in Cyrillic scripts on 24 pages of a poor quality, which is still much better than that in the communist period.
As the ruling coalition is primarily directed towards Montenegro, that topic is an inevitable daily theme in “Pobjeda”, too. Any Yugoslavian tint can hardly be found anywhere off the sports pages. For example, in the 13 August issue we came across a cover-page title referring to Yugoslavia, which reads: “The Blue Basketball Players Cross-Examined the Russians”.
According to the two smaller texts with tiny titles, we can conclude that the only actual events in Serbia that day were the accusation by the Democratic Party against Koštunica’s Advisor on obstructions in investigation concerning the murder of former official of state security, and that Koštunica’s Advisor Aleksandar Tijanić stated that he could not recognise himself in the mentioned statement by the Democratic Party. And that would be all. Any broader or more detailed reports coming from FRY cannot be found even in the block “Svet/The World/”, which brings news from Slovenia, BiH, Croatia, Russia, Angola and Israel.
As far as Serbia is concerned, the newspaper is prone to put emphasis on the fact that “DOS is standing on glass legs” and that “Serbian predictions of bleak days in Montenegro are in vain”. It might seem that this newspaper pays more attention to tourist or economic co-operation with Albania than to anything happening or coming from FRY.
Generally speaking, the conception of “Pobjeda” itself could be described as a kind of impersonal, except in the comments addressed to its rivals. “Pobjeda” can be labelled as a typical regime newspaper, with its lack of polemics, plural opinions in texts or critics. When it happens that water supply in Montenegro Coast is cut for weeks (as it has happened), “Pobjeda” will flatly insist on convincing you that water supply is regular and of good quality.
But the weather forecast is prepared in a convincingly the most original way. On the left-hand side is a map and the forecast for Europe, while on the right side you see a magnified map of Montenegro divided from Serbia by a thick shaded belt.
The “Dan” (http://www.dan.cg.yu) – sensational, scandalous, exclusive (more or less) – that is what the “Dan” is. It has been running for three years now and is edited mainly on 24 pages. The impressum informs us that the newspaper is edited by the editorial collegiate body, and who the director and editor-in-chief are. “Dan” is printed and edited by “Jumedia Mont” d.o.o. It is subjected to direct influence by SNP, and there are rumours that the editorial collegiate body includes also Dušan Čukić, the former editor and executive of “Večernje Novosti” in the twilight of Milošević’s regime.
The “Dan” has made an odd conglomerate of enemies, and enemies are identified in accordance with interests of the party – the Socialist National Party (SNP). In fact, the term “influence” is too weak if we remember that it is only thanking to the SNP’s connections and ministers in the Federal Government that “Dan” is kept up and running. This means an information multy-front struggle; the targets in Montenegro are DPS and Liberal Association of Montenegro, and in Yugoslavia the Serbian Government.
Approximately, this is how a day looks like in the perception of “Dan”: the cover page informs us that Koštunica and Đinđić will separate in September, and that the investigation undertaken by “Financial Times” found that Đinđić was involved in the affair: “Similar to the Montenegro President, this Serb politician also got involved into affairs with people who could undermine his credibility”.
On daily bases, radical streams from Serbia take an important place in the newspaper. In late August, these were the Serb Renewal Movement (SPO) and the Serb Radical Party (SRS). In one of its issues, “Dan” brought an interview with Vlajko Senić from SPO. He claims that corruption and Mafia reign in Serbia, all under the title: “They Support Đinđić Because of Privileges”. One day later they brought the statement by Obren Joksimović (DSS), in the prime place and with a huge title: “I pray God for the Government to Fall”. The texts on “the scandals within the Serb Government” and on the “tobacco Mafia” appear on regular basis, sometimes even on two pages. The unusual selection of guests is spiced with reports from local and regional political scene, with distasteful titles and statements, like the following: “Karadžić and Mladić are the Serb Saints” – a story told by a Bosnian war volunteer; “KFOR cheered Yugoslavia” – report on humanitarian aid supply for Kosovo, and similar. The category, which overwhelmingly prevail in “Vijesti”, remains lacking in “Dan” – the news. Whenever a text is supposed to be informative, it is tinted with a personal view, and whenever an event brings about various views, this newspaper regularly presents only one side of it.
If “Pobjeda” is in the same level with the Belgrade “Politika”, then “Dan” belongs to the school of “Večernje Novosti”. This is also apparent from the text dealing with DOS’s/Democratic Opposition of Serbia/ dissolution: “…according to “Dan’s” sources, the opponents of Yugoslavian President have launched the initial action, and are already working on the issue of pronouncing Zorica Radović, the spouse of Vojislav Koštunica, as a person who keeps all threads in her own hands and has an extreme influence on the President, and thus on the politics he pursues…” The page is then “enriched” with a statement by Vojislav Šešelj about eavesdropping of the FRY President. This situation could be assessed as déjŕ-vu-journalism breaded on fertile soil of conspiracy, but deprived of beneficent influence of common sense…
One of characteristics of “Dani” is a permanent block on Orthodoxy and Orthodox religious holidays, as well as relatively funny cartoons, whilst the weather forecast is brought in the form of text, and it includes Yugoslavia (of course).
“Glas Crnogorca” makes probably the most acceptable material for average (read: on average indoctrinated) tourists form Serbia. “Glas Crnogorca” has been running for year and a half, and it continues the tradition of a newspaper that existed more than a hundred years ago. It builds its image on tradition and confrontation with the communist past. In one (!) impressum we found that the editor is D.O.O Cultural Center “Saint Sava”, Podgorica, while others do not contain that information. This is still a new newspaper, without a profiled conception and program contents.
Entirely different from all other dailies in Montenegro, “Glas Crnogorca” probably builds its conception on a well-known thesis – where there are Serbs, there must be a Serb land and a Serb newspaper. By means of its rather sharp pen, “Glas Crnogorca” addresses all those who, in one way or other, threaten Serbia, but also Yugoslavia. In doing so, it has a variable success – the texts are often strained and pretentious.
However, the quality is compensated by the quantity. Because, it reports on literally everything, from problems of establishing religious education in schools and visit by Serb economists to Austria, to the political scene, making no differences among personalities or parties. Thus, the events from FRY are present all the way through, from the first page to the last – through politics, sport and culture. One permanent page/block is titled Serbia.
When it comes to presentation, “Glas” does not leave the slightest doubt about the position of the author or general orientation of the newspaper. For example, if it reports about Nenad Čanak, President of the Assembly of Vojvodina, the text reads as follows: “Nenad Čanak, the leading autonomist and separatist from the north of Serbia…” Or, if Rade Marinkov is mentioned, than he is “the Deputy President of Executive Council of Vojvodina, member of Vojislav Koštinica’s Democratic Party of Serbia, a mister with genuinely Vojvodinian name and surname…”
Yet another example, at the local level, confirms this: “The Annual Book Fair in Herceg Novi held this year, has proved that the aggressive attempts to separate Montenegrins’ culture from its parental Serbian stream, inevitably lead to degradation of Montenegro culture. This is clearly indicated by participants to the Fair…”
This newspaper offers a lot of room and pays a lot of attention to the faith. Of course, make no mistake, only to the Orthodox faith. In its pages you will find permanent blocks with religious matters, calendar of holy days and “moral instructions for today”.
From the professional point of view, it must be admitted that “Glas” is, in the sense of genre, richer than its rivals are. Interviews are quite frequent, sometimes brought on an entire page, while selection of the interviewed remains pretty diverse, though greatly dictated by the favoured political option. Regretfully, the editorial staff feels no urge to balance the reporting, because any publicity needs a newspaper which would unmask political “position”, but only under the condition of succeeding not to compromise itself through keeping silent about “splendour and misery” of the opposition. For, propaganda should not be the duty of newspapers and journalists, regardless of how much it may seem to you that that exactly is the case when you read the press of this region. But if per chance you want to take a look at the weather forcast, you’ll have to buy some other newspaper.
Snežana Stefanović writes for the
P.O. Box, CH-8031