IWPR & MEDIA PLAN
30 March 1997 Vol II / No 13
MEDIA FORTNIGHT IN REVIEW: 31 March to 14 April 1997
On the occasion of the visit of Pope John Paul II to the capital of Bosnia & Herzegovina media throughout the Federation forgot their differences and broadcast wholeheartedly his messages of peace and tolerance. In striking contrast, the RS media gave the event minimal coverage.
Mostar East and West media show a few signs of lessening divergence.
The arrival of supervisor Robert Faranda in Brcko passed off with little media pomp. The expectations of all interested parties seem more realistic now than they were a few months ago.
In this edition we will focus on:
RTV BiH directed all its energies towards preparing for the Pope's visit. In the fortnight before his arrival, numerous special programs devoted to the coming visit of the Pope appeared during prime-time viewing. For the first time in several months, TV BiH reminded viewers that there are at least some Croats in the Federation who are not radically opposed to a multiethnic state, like BiH Cardinal Vinko Pulic, whose messages of reconciliation got extensive coverage .
BiH television provided nearly eight hours of live coverage of the visit's highlights (fully one third of the time the Pope spent in Sarajevo) together with uniformly positive commentary from a range of religious and political leaders."
In the weeks before the Pope's arrival Radio Hercegbosna maintained he was coming only to visit Croats. But as the date grew closer their reports from Sarajevo began to include more information about the joint preparations of Croats and Bosnjaks. In one round table on titled "Why the Pope is coming
to Sarajevo" (7/4) the words of Fra Pero Sudar: "Bosnia should a mother to all its peoples" were given prominence. Divisive comments continued to appear, but rarely, as for example, on the nightly news broadcast "Kronika" (11/4) "In Vitez Muslim extremists have burned around 50 Croatian homes. This burning should not be understood just as a bonfire of hatred; they also wish to light up the road for the Pope's coming".
The newly-established TV Hercegbosna gave detailed accounts of all preparations for the reception. A number of films and documentaries were also shown. It is interesting to note that Television Hercegbosna, for the first time ever, carried a program direct from TV BiH (10/4). It was a special program to mark the Pope's visit, in which the highest state and religious representatives of the Bosnjak and Croat communities participated.
There was no mention of the fact that the Pope had refused Croat invitations to visit Hercegovina, or of the battle between the Vatican and Hercegovinan Franciscans over the authenticity of the shrine of the Virgin Mary in Medjugorije. The Vatican has warned the Franciscans that unless they cease promoting Medjugorije as a site of the Virgin's miraculous (and daily) appearance, they will be excommunicated.
The Pope's arrival in Sarajevo was presented grudgingly by SRT as a second-class event. On the eve of the visit, snippets of information were occasionally broadcast, which had less to do with the visit itself, than with actual or supposed obstacles to it.
SRT did not regard the Pope's visit as much of a story. In the nightly newscast Novosti (12/4) reported "in Muslim Sarajevo many explosive devices were found that had been prepared for the Pope's reception". This was the first the viewers heard of the Pope's arrival.
Ten minutes into its broadcast, Novosti ran a brief report, without pictures, on the Pope's arrival, announcing that he would meet the next day with Serb civil and religious leaders. All emphasis was on the meeting with the Serb representatives.
The following day, SRT broadcast a three-minute report on the meeting of the Pope with the Serb member of the joint presidency, Momcilo Krajisnik. Half of the report consisted of Krajisnik's statement in which he described what he had said to the Pope. The pictures accompanying the report were strictly focused on the encounter, without a single picture of the Pope's other pastoral and state activities. SRT also neglected the Pope's historic meeting with the Serbian Orthodox Metropolitan Nikola.
SRT also carried excerpts from the reactions of international media - mainly those which reported the less positive aspects of the visit. There was plenty of pessimistic commentary (on assassination plots, the loss of Sarajevo's multiethnic character, etc.).
The otherwise impressive performance of TV BiH during the visit was marred when the state broadcaster was faced with the challenge of reporting the bad news of a 150 kg bomb discovered by accident on the Pope's route into Sarajevo. The state news agency BH Press reported inaccurately that the bomb was an old device that "the Serb aggressor placed during the war, not found until this moment."
Radio BiH transmitted this statement unquestioningly, even when local media in Sarajevo, for example Studio 99, challenged it.
Television BiH in its nightly newscast Dnevnik (12/4) ran the BiH agency statement,
despite the fact that in a subsequent report from the Federal Ministry of Interior, a ministry spokesman said that the mines were placed during the previous night. Foreign journalists had the story by late afternoon, but TV BiH, with its superior contacts, had not been able to get its facts straight by its 7PM airtime. As a result it broadcast conflicting information, leaving viewers guessing.
After completing his report on the events of 10th February when Croat police opened fire on a group of Bosnjaks visiting graves in West Mostar, Deputy High Representative, Michael Steiner, sent a letter to the Federation officials stating: "Inflammatory statements in the media must cease. Political leaders of the city and canton must act together and must appear together in the media".
Over the past two weeks, the stormy media situation in Mostar showed signs of calming. Within HTV Mostar (West side) the nightly newscast Dnevnik appeared to be turning over a new leaf. Previously, the editors and journalists of HTV Mostar acted as cheerleaders for the nationalist Croat regime. In the last fifteen days their approach was considerably more professional and balanced, and news and events were broadcast without emotive rhetoric.
While there were still some deliberate omissions of significant material, they were less glaring than hitherto. For the most part, the exclusion of "inconvenient" information, such as part of the OSCE report on media behaviour in the September elections (3/4) or the admonitory letter of Sir Martin Garrod addressed to Neretva Canton Premiere Mijo Brajkovic (4-5/4). There appear to have been some changes in the journalistic and editorial lineup from HTV Mostar. Could this be the reason for the sudden, if minimal emergence of professionalism in its reporting?
The most important recent event in Mostar - the formation of joint police forces in the central city zone - was covered by both local broadcasters with a positive emphasis.
Perhaps the change is due to the influence of the international community, perhaps not; but there is definitely a new trend in the media on both sides of the Neretva.
Our monitors have been analysing the treatment of the international community in the media of BiH: Radio and TV BiH, Serb Radio and TV, TV IN and Croatian Radio Hercegbosna. The aim of this qualitative analysis is to measure the frequency of reports on the involvement of the international community in BiH, and to establish the types of attitudes and positions journalists display.
Under the term "International Community" we include various international institutions taking part in the implementation of the DPA. Media frequently use the term "international community" without identifying any particular institution.
*** if you would like to view this table please contact Rebecca Handler who can fax it to you ****
Based on our analyses of nightly newscasts, it could be concluded that RTV BiH has a principally neutral attitude towards international subjects whose activities relate to BiH. Meanwhile, for negative commentary, the abstract term of "intentional community" is used or "some countries." In the last fifteen days, two out of three commentaries in Dnevnik onTV BiH were negative. For example, a journalist concluded that the exhumation of the Srebrenica dead is proceeding slowly because "some governments have no interest in the opening of the graves".
In the programs of RTV BiH the Office of The High representative (OHR) was most frequently mentioned. The most dwelt-upon figures were Michael Steiner, spokesman Colum Murphy and the chief of the Mostar Office Sir Martin Garrod. Carl Bildt appeared much less often, being more rarely "in the field". The United Nations can thank spokesman Alexander Ivanko, who communicates with the media on a daily basis, for its relatively high profile.
It would appear from the above table that 90% of information on the international community's involvement with BiH comes through the coverage of individual representatives in BiH. The use of foreign-channel news-comments on BiH is slight. However, it should be remembered that during the monitored period no international conference relating to Bosnia and Herzegovina was held, nor there was any actual trial in the Hague.
It should also be mentioned, however, that the Bosnian media's coverage of the international organizations is largely restricted to press conferences, in which information is spoon-fed to the journalists. Unlike the foreign reporters, local journalists rarely, if ever ask questions of the international representatives, and their comments are broadcast without any indication that the journalists have done any independent reporting on the subjects discussed.
Radio Hercegbosna deals with the international community, its representatives in BiH, and the activities of international institutions, only in as much as these relate to Croatia and Croat representatives in BiH.
OHR activities are formally covered, without commentary. OSCE is mostly heard of in connection with Mostar events. The press conferences of Sir Martin Garrod in Mostar are often edited to exclude material which might be offensive to Croats.
Radio Hercegbosna displays a negative attitude towards the Hague. When describing the meeting held in Kiseljak of the supporters of General Tihomir Blaskic ( accused of war crimes), Kronika 2.IV calls the Tribunal a "politicized institution".
The terms "international community " and "international institutions" are again used to send messages of criticism or resentment without specifying the addressee.
Statistics show that Croatia has the place of honor above all other international subjects. Radio HB gives Croatia news a special bloc within its nightly Kronika. All HB coverage, without exception, is affirmative.
Of all monitored media TVINFO puts out most information about the activities of the international community and its missions in BiH (156). This accords with the claims of TVIN to compensate the public for deficiencies in other channels' coverage of the aims and results of international undertakings in BiH. The general tone of supplements is neutral.
TVIN's dedication to coverage of the international community might also be explained by the fact that with a tiny staff, it does not have the resources to report on much more than the press conferences which numerous international organizations produce with great frequency and relish. Unfortunately, TVIN has little time for news and announcements from local political parties, who, like Bosnia's citizens, after all, do live here, and will remain when all the well-meaning foreigners, (an their money) go home.
The conferences of OHR, SFOR, UN, IPTF, and OSCE receive particular attention from TVIN. Concerning frequency of appearance the following statistical data are most revealing: names of representatives of international community appeared in the period 56 times, representatives of the
Federation of BiH were named 26 times, joint bodies of BiH 10 and RS 3 times. Most often occurred the names of the High Representative, his Deputy and Spokesman (16), the UN (16), then IPTF and OSCE (7 each), SFOR and EU (6 each).
In the programs of SRT, international community is mentioned chiefly on the occasion of protocol contacts between the highest representatives of the RS and visiting world officials. Resources used are: the official statements of international organizations in BiH, statements and comments of official RS representatives, world agency material, and extracts from the international press, very selectively edited.
International news is frequently "enriched" with accompanying remarks and comments. In this period the international community was scourged for "unclear" policies on Brcko (its postponement of the local elections, pending reform of the police); the postonement of the donors' conference on economic reconstruction ("discriminatory treatment of the RS"), and the critical evaluations made by international representatives of RS contribution to the implementation of the DPA .
Srpska TV critics spoke of the "international community " in the vague, collective sense (4 times), mentioned OSCE by name (4 times), OHR (2), Croatia (4), and the Hague Tribunal (with emphatic negative colouring) (3).
However, the subject of the harshest critique was Michael Steiner who is accused by SRT of laying all blame for the slow implementation of the peace agreement on the Serbs alone. (Novosti, 6/4). The commentator claimed that Steiner "lobbying for the Muslims, went a step further, and imputed hypothetical collective guilt to the Serbian people".
Under the column in the table for "other countries" information from FRY and Croatia is predominant. News of Croatia mainly deals with the position of Serb people, seen to be critical, in Croatia. Information from FRY, after the signing of the agreement on special relations, now carries the positive prefix (+) for being affirmative in character, and criticism of Slobodan Milosevic has entirely disappeared.
The power struggle between the Republika Srpska president Biljana Plavsic and Momcilo Krajisnik spilled onto television when Plavsic publicly attacked the editorial policy of SRT. On an SRT broadcast, which was also carried by Serb radio (8/4), she complained, "On two occasions you refused to broadcast my statements, and you hosted (Serbian Radical Party leader) Vojislav Seselj who asked for the resignation of the president of the Republic, as your guest". Plavsic is locked in a political battle with Krajisnik and her predecessor, Radovan Karadzic, over several issues, including control of the police, the economy, and the RS-FRY agreement. Plavsic is fighting what she, and international observers feel are Krajisnik's attempts to usurp her authority as elected president of the Serbian entity. She has found few allies in the media, as Krajisnik, in addition to his other duties, is also head of SRT. Plavsic indicated she understands the rules of the political/media game in the RS with the warning "take care that the electricity does not cut off in the studio".
The presenter of the program Drago Vukovic, otherwise editor-in-chief of Srpska TV, did not answer these accusations.
Absence of information considered politically unpleasant has become characteristic of Srpska TV. On the other hand the statement of an SFOR representative that in Croat-controlled Drvar eight houses were mined to prevent Serbs returning
received high priority. (Novosti, 2/4). Meanwhile, some days before, SRT had hushed up the demonstrations in Banja Luka of many thousands of Serb refugees from Drvar who asked to return to their homes. Both Bosnian Croat and RS authorities have consistently opposed any Serb return to Drvar since the Dayton Accords.
When describing events in the Federation, especially in Sarajevo, Srpska TV refers to the writings of "independent Sarajevo media " (Novosti, 5/4). For some reason, SRT has never referred to stories from the struggling independent media in the RS.
The UN is very worried because of the recent statements broadcast by Radio Drvar, in which the mostly Croat population is asked to stop the return of Serbs to their homes in Drvar, said UN spokesman Alexander Ivanko at his press conference in Pale. (Oslobodjenje, 3/4)
*** In a recent session of the RS government a council was established to monitor the program orientation and editorial policy of state-owned newspapers.
(Srpski radio, 12/4)
*** Media plan, Sarajevo and the School of Journalism in Lille (France) will work together on a project for opening a Bosnian-French school of journalism, the head office of which will be in Sarajevo. The idea for opening this school sprang from the cooperation of these two media institutions, which have already organised many courses for media specialisation, and for young journalists.
The opening of the school is planned for Autumn 1998. The French government gave support to this initiative. (SAFAX)
The following media were monitored for this week's report Srpski Radio, Srpska TV, Radio BiH, TV BiH, Hrvatski radio HB, TVIN, TV TPK , TV USK,HTV Herceg Bosna,TV Mostar, HTV Mostar, TV Srbije, Hrvatska televizija,
Report> Media Plan, Sarajevo and Institute for War and Peace Reporting, London Project Director: Zoran Udovicic; Producer: Silva Vujovic; Editor of English Edition: Colin Soloway; Coordinator for English Edition: Jennifer Pearce; Monitoring Report is free of charge, and reprinting is free. We gratefully acknowledge project financial support from the Swedish International Development and Cooperation Agency, Stockholm. For all information you can contact: Media Plan: Obala Kulina bana 4/I, 71000 Sarajevo, B&H,Tel/Fax 071-667-734/735; E-mail: MEDIAPLAN_ZU@ZAMIR-SA.ztn.apc.org & firstname.lastname@example.org IWPR: at 33 Islington High Street, London N1 9LH. Tel + 44-171-713-7130 / Fax 713-7140 / E-mail:email@example.com. http:/www.demon.co.uk/iwpr/iwpr.htm
P.O. Box, CH-8031