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Medienhilfe Ex-Jugoslawien

Professionelle Solidaritńt gegen Nationalismus und Chauvinismus
Professional solidarity against nationalism and chauvinism



30 March 1997 Vol II / No 14


It was another busy fortnight of demagoguery and conflict on the political scene, mirrored in the coverage of state-controlled broadcast media. It is fairly clear to everyone in Bosnia that the civilian implementation of the Dayton accords has been a massive failure, with virtually no progress in any of the significant annexes of the agreement. Now that Bosnian political leaders are admitting this, it has become yet another political football for the parties. How long will it be before the international community publicly admits the truth and starts developing a different strategy and tactics?


Vladimir Soljic, President of the Federation of BiH Dear Mr. President,

On several occasions certain statesmen of the Federation have declared that they prefer not to give statements to TV BiH until it has transformed its outlook. According to them it currently fails to represent Croat interests.

Could you please tell us what, in the eyes of Croat representatives of the Federation, the function, status and management of post-Dayton TV BiH should be? How, in your view, can it better represent Croat interests?

Letter and counter-letter

Writing letters about politics is currently the favoured political methodology, compensating for the sluggish progress of the governmental bodies tasked with implementing the Dayton Peace Accord. The defects of these bodies are covered by the publicity-seeking which some of their members, including international representatives resort to.

However, the greatest furore in politics and the media was produced by the letter Alija Izetbegovic (chairman of the collective presidency) and Haris Silajdzic (co-chairman of the council of ministers) addressed to the international community on the failure of the Dayton Accords. The letter called for political and economic sanctions against those (in the minds of Izetbegovic and Silajdzic, only the Serbs and Croats) obstructing the implementation of the accords. TV BiH's presenter read the letter in full on the station's nightly newscast, Dnevnik (21/4). While reiterating Izetbegovic's legitimate complaints about the failure to implement Dayton and the dismal human rights situation in Republika Srpska and areas under control of the Bosnian Croat army (the HVO), TV BiH as usual failed to mention the non-compliance with many elements of the agreements, and constant human rights violations in areas of the Federation ruled by Izetbegovic's SDA.

While TV BiH continues to broadcast Izetbegovic's statements and letters as something akin to the word of God, (or, more appropriately, Tito) three days later it did broadcast the negative reactions of Croat leaders in Federation institutions: Kresimir Zubak, the Croat member of the joint presidency; Jadranko Prlic, BiH foreign minister; and Neven Tomic, deputy chairman of the Council of Ministers. In an answering letter these three wrote that Izetbegovic's letter expressed nothing but the personal views of Izetbegovic, and complained (reasonably) that he had signed the letter as "President" instead of as "Chairman of the Presidency".

But the reaction to his letter that really mattered to Izetbegovic came from Washington, on the 25th of April. The American response was so scathing in its dismissal of Izetbegovic's complaints that not even TV BiH's reporter could put a favourable spin on it. Izetbegovic wanted to attract international attention to the obvious failings of the peace process, but the response he received was far from encouraging for citizens who believe in a unified, multiethnic Bosnia.

Radio Hercegbosna (West Mostar) was only interested in the reactions of the Croat Federal leaders to the letter, seeing in it a gesture from the Bosnjak leadership "telling the world about the failure of Dayton". Kronika's daily newscast covered the response of the three Croat representatives, exonerating the Croat leaders from the failure of the Dayton Accord. Izetbegovic and Silajdzic were criticised for speaking as if on behalf of the government bodies, (of which they were sarcastically called "the only members"), and the international community was called upon to reject their letter as "the private opinions of the Bosnjak President of the state body". The unfavourable response which the letter met in the US was emphasised by the presenter. Special coverage was given to an interview given to Oslobodjenje by Deputy High Representative Michael Steiner (26/4) in which he answers some of the criticisms of the Dayton implementation process raised by the letter.

The letter did not receive much air time in the RS. SRT viewers heard about the matter indirectly, through the statement made by Aleksa Buha, SDS vice-president 24/4). Buha called the letter "unacceptable," adding that for the raising of such vital questions a universal consensus should have been sought. This was the only reaction of the Republika Srpska leaders broadcast, and was not accompanied by any clarifying commentary on the issue.

Trial by media

The Zvornik trial of seven Bosnjak survivors from Srebrenica accused of "war crimes against Serbian civilians" (killing and possibly eating as many as four Serb woodcutters in the Spring of 1996) ended in a roar of protest from international officials and Federation media. Three of the seven were sentenced to twenty one years in jail. The other four were released. The Republika Srpska court was accused of illegal and dishonest proceedings, and the incapable defence-lawyer was accused of abetting the prosecution. As usual, the media in both entities used this tragic case to further domestic political agendas.

TV BiH carried the opinion of Michael Steiner that the RS Ministry of Justice blatantly acted counter to both the Constitution of BiH and all international conventions, and that the whole proceeding was a "mockery of justice". The statements of UN and OSCE spokesmen Alexander Ivanko and David Foley that the court subverted all international norms, and their opinion that "the behaviour of the RS media over this matter was disgraceful" were also broadcast (23/4).

Normally restrained in its coverage of political events, Radio BiH went overboard in its coverage of the trial. The presenter of Dnevnik twice labelled the court "a masquerade of legality" and attacked the "horror of this disgraceful and unjustifiable procedure and the drastic sentence meted out for unproved and, as far as can be judged, uncommitted crimes." (Dnevnik, 24/4)

Ironically, until the trial grew near, the Bosnian government and media were strangely silent about the "Zvornik seven" for nearly a year after their arrest. UN police officers involved in the investigation from the beginning expressed their belief that there might be something to the charges, and the prisoners' confessions. But in Federation media last year and today, there was never consideration given to the possibility that the desperate men, living in the woods for nearly a year after the war, might have actually committed a crime. More honest and professional reports might have at least concluded that no matter how heinous their crime, whether the "Zvornik seven" were guilty or not was immaterial, given their allegations of torture-induced confessions, and their treatment at the hands of a kangaroo court.

State-controlled media in the Republika Srpska presented the Zvornik trial as spotless, supporting the viewpoint of the prosecution throughout. When announcing the verdict the presenter of the TV News openly declared that the trial of "the group of Muslim terrorists from Srebrenica who last year massacred 4 Serb civilians," was over, and that the proceedings would be concluded in a few days. Thus the newscaster made it plain that in the eyes of the media the accused were already convicted.

SRT chose to ignore all protests made by the international community and the world's media against the Zvornik court. Unsurprisingly, it failed to mention Alexander Ivanko's prediction that the Serb media would not carry one word of international criticism.

As a substitute for complete and unbiased reporting, SRT laboured to produce a "collective" answer to the messages sent by the international community. (Novosti, 25/4). The TV News commentary accused the UN representatives of "publicising the judicial procedure with the aim of producing their own verdict". The commentator whitewashed the Zvornik trial by selectively quoting statements given in court, finishing up by praising the principle of multi-ethnicity. "By insisting that the defence-lawyer should be from the Federation, the UN is, in fact, trying to form a defence on ethnic lines, in direct contradiction of the Dayton Agreement."

Bajram, Passover and Easter

In the monitored period the Islamic feast of Bajram, Jewish Passover, and Orthodox Easter were celebrated. The holy days passed peacefully, accompanied by efforts from the international community to increase tolerance and confidence for minority groups.

TV BiH presented a balanced viewing of the religious feasts of the three ethnic groups. Significantly, the head of the Bosnian Orthodox Church, the Metropolitan Nikolaj, sent his Easter Greetings to the Sarajevo faithful via TV BiH from his self-imposed exile in Sokolac. However, the Orthodox bishop of Tuzla, Kacavenda failed to appear as expected to celebrate the Easter service in the Federation's second largest Serb community.

All three festivals received surprisingly unbiased coverage from Radio Hercegbosna. On the 17th of April Kronika read the following announcement: "The Islamic congregation visited the Muslim cemetery in West Mostar in accordance with the rituals of their feast of Kurban Bajram. The visit passed off without incident. Ivan Bender and Mijo Brajkovic send warm Bajram greetings to the faithful." The Jewish Passover called forth further congratulations from Croat civil and religious leaders, which were duly broadcast.(22/4). There were also congratulations broadcast on the occasion of Orthodox Easter, and Orthodox celebrations were covered in Osijek, Split, Belgrade - but not, however, in BiH.

The Orthodox Easter was the subject of regular special broadcasts on SRT. Among all the Easter greetings a particularly warm note was sounded for the WWII Cetnik leader, Momcilo Djujic (Novosti, 27/4). Simultaneously with TV BiH's live transmission of the service in the ancient Orthodox Church in Sarajevo, SRT ran a programme reminiscing about the celebration of Easter during the most recent war, which presented a perfect opportunity for broadcasting the Easter greetings of Radovan Karadzic.

As on former occasions SRT failed to broadcast Bajram or Passover greetings.

Happy Easter, Tuzla

Orthodox Easter in Tuzla took place without the much-publicised visit of the Metropolitan (bishop) for the Tuzla-Zvornik region, Vasilije Kacavenda. Tuzla has been the nominal seat of the bishop since Bosnian independence, but Kacavenda, like most of his fellow Orthodox clergy, moved to Serb-controlled territory at the beginning of the war. This was to be his first visit to Tuzla since 1992. However Kacavenda, who was a strong supporter of the RS cause and leadership, failed to turn up, leaving 3,000 Tuzla Serbs waiting outside the church on Easter Sunday. TV BiH set the tone of media coverage of the non-event, reporting that public feeling was against the coming of the Kacavenda owing to his "persistent collaboration with Cetniks and blessing Serb fascists in their acts of genocide against the Bosnjak people". (Dnevnik, 27/4). However, Dnevnik did not omit Michael Steiner's comment that only the Hague is competent to judge who is and who is not guilty of war crimes.

TV TPK, the television of the Tuzla-Podrinska Canton carried the unfavourable responses of the local government to the proposed visit. These were ascribed to "the negative feelings in the city, especially among the Serb community, and in the council of the Serb citizens. (during the war, Kacavenda denounced Serbs who stayed in government controlled areas as "traitors.") The staff of TV TPK (controlled by the SDA-led cantonal government) openly agreed with the statement of the cantonal president, Sead Jamakosmanovic, that "it is impossible to guarantee the safety of Kacavenda."

But the cantonal authorities, and TV TPK, did an abrupt about-face when the arrival of Michael Steiner shed new light on the case. Steiner brought the message that the families of the Zvornik Seven had no objection to the visit of Kacavenda. The cantonal president lost no time in declaring that " the state put nothing in the way of Kacavenda's visit, nor did the government bodies obstruct his coming to Tuzla, although they will not accord him any official significance."

TVIN - going in the Dayton direction

The newscasts of TV INFO (TVIN) differed in tone from those of the larger TV stations. Above all, it could be noticed that they gave optimistic coverage to the implementation of the peace process, and chose approaches likely to encourage and stimulate that process. In the past two weeks the defective coverage of Mostar has improved. Deputy Mayor Safet Orucevic was shown announcing that Bosnjaks' Bajram visit to a cemetery in West Mostar had passed with the minimum of incident (27/4). TVIN was comprehensive in its coverage of the meeting of the Entity Premiers: Edhem Bicakcic of the Federation, and Gojko Klickovic of the RS, and the visit of RS religious leader Dusan Antelja to the president of the Tuzla-Podrinska Canton, Sead Jamakosmanovic, an important event which was not accorded much air-space by the Sarajevo media.

Annex Seven of the Dayton Peace agreement, which attempts to provide the return of refugees to their homes, came under scrutiny in an interview with Sadako Ogata, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (18/4). This was accompanied by the broadcast of letters sent in by refugees wanting to return home. There was no emotive commentary.

TVIN does not cover protocol activities of the state leaders, but is still almost slavish in its coverage of international representatives and their press conferences. This is evident in the following statistics: The representatives of the international community made 74 appearances over the past two weeks; the representatives of the Federation 34, the representatives of the Republic bodies 12, and the RS leaders just 4.

While on the subject of representation, of BiH as a complete state, of the Federation and the RS, it should be mentioned that the Federation representatives got priority coverage partly because Sarajevo, as the capital, is the seat of most of the conferences significant to the Federation. The Federation was mentioned on 95 occasions in the monitored period, the Republic of BiH 18, the RS 14. Notably, the RS was mentioned only once in a negative context - that of the Zvornik trial. The Federation received 10 negative mentions, the Republic of BiH 3. By and large the affirming and positive tone of these spots was owing to the commentary of the journalists and presenters.

As usual, none of TVIN's coverage extended to those parts of the Federation which are under Croat control. TVIN has no reporters in these areas - one of its most serious defects as a supposedly state-wide network.

Mirror, mirror on the wall

Radio BiH carried the story of the statement made by one of the members of the Republika Srpska National Assembly, to the effect that Momcilo Krajisnik is not the President of the Presidency, as he is often described in the RS media, being only a member of the BiH joint Presidency (23/4). Thereafter, Alija Izetbegovic was conscientiously and ostentatiously titled Chairman of the Presidency, on air, although Dayton terminology has never been, as yet, implemented to the letter. Despite a warning from the Office of the High Representative, SRT emissions regularly bestow the title of President of the Presidency on Momcilo Krajisnik. (Novosti, 23/4).

Una-Sana TV (Bihac region) has been exhaustive in covering the exhumation of the mass graves in the region, following every step of the process, the exhumation, identification, and funerals of the victims. Air time was also given to the tasteless statement of President of the Cantonal Parliament Adem Boric, ˘the biggest quarry in the history of Bosnia is that in which we are now digging up Bosnian Muslims.÷ The statement of SDA official Osman Brka, ˘Dayton has brought a cease-fire, but not peace or freedom,÷ was outdone by this gruesome remark, which was unlikely to bring much comfort to the families of the dead and the missing.

Lest one think that Radio Hercegbosna is going soft on multiethnicity, the station celebrated the fourth anniversary of the outbreak of the Muslim-Croat war in a special broadcast from Travnik. The broadcast fulminated over ˘the bloody Muslim aggression dating from four years ago÷, ˘ the bloody conflicts in which hundreds of Croat women and children and elderly people were bloodily massacred÷, etc. (16/4). This and other spots of similar style and content have certainly done little to advance the cause of tolerance, or to further the safe return of refugees to their homes. Ironically, Travnik has been the scene of the greatest number of Croat returns to Muslim-majority areas in the Federation.


>NTV Banja Luka

The independent television station of Banja Luka (NTV Banja Luka) commenced broadcasting in September 1996. Its signal covers an area with a radius of about 50 km, including Mrkonjic Grad, Kotor Varos, Bosanska Gradiska, and Prnjavor.

NTV Banja Luka transmits 126 hours of programming weekly, of which its own productions make up about 10%. The stationĂs profile is conventional, consisting largely of music programmes (particularly folk music). It transmits some satellite programmes, and excerpts taken from BelgradeĂs TV Pink and TV Serbia. It customarily shows programmes that were broadcast by these stations a week before. The borrowed programmes vary, with political analysis, music, sport, and cultural shows. It rebroadcasts the 7.30 PM main newscast from TV Serbia. NTV Banja Luka never carries any programmes from SRT.

Half of its own output consists of advertising: both for the main local businesses and for alternative newspapers produced in the RS. During the day NTV Banja Luka broadcasts three short news spots about events in BiH and abroad. Events in Banja Luka are mainly covered by the stationĂs own reporters. The sources most often used are the independent agencies AIM and BETA, the Yugoslav state news agency Tanjug, and on occasion Reuters, Radio Free Europe, and others.

The stationĂs own contribution to the overall output is so small that it is difficult to decide what is characteristic of its productions. The ˘Special Emission÷ programme (Tuesdays, 8.15 - 9.55pm), deserves attention: it deals directly with current political, social and economic issues; guests are significant political figures, and political options are openly discussed.

NTV Banja Luka owes a great deal to its equipment, supplied by SRT, and to support from USAID. It is the only local station in the RS which benefits from UNESCO and the Soros Media Centre, and the contents of their video library, which it frequently transmits. Even so, the station has had many difficulties with its staffing and material supplies, which are reflected in the quality of its output.

Despite the strict laws laid down by the RS Ministry of Information enjoining the use of the Cyrillic script and the ˘ekavski÷ (Serbian) variant of the Bosnian language, the station balances them with the ˘ijekavski÷ (Croatian and Bosnian) dialect and the Latin alphabet.

It is too early to decide whether the station has any specific political orientation, but its forthcoming pre-election campaign coverage will answer the question. Meanwhile, it seems to have some sympathies with the opposition.


This Banja Luka station commenced transmission in June, 1996. Its broadcasts can reach the city and surrounding regions in a 25 km radius. Programmes mainly feature popular music and sport, mostly from foreign channels. TV SimicĂs own productions make up about 5% of total output. Most transmissions consist of excerpts from satellite channels, and cartoons from the distributing house ˘Provision÷, whose wares used to be available to all stations in the former Yugoslavia. Simic does not broadcast informative programmes, nor transmit those of other stations.

Simic productions consist mainly of advertising spots, musical recordings, coverage of sports events taking place in the city, and brief reports on other local, non-political subjects. On Sundays the most notable sport events in Banja Luka and abroad are dealt with, while a ninety-minute ˘Sunday Morning÷ programme presents a mixed bag of items of local interest.

Right at the start, TV Simic openly declared itself to be an independent sport-and-music station run on a strictly commercial basis by a private owner, Vlado Simic. From time to time however, the commentary which follows news reports sheds some doubts on the supposedly non- political nature of the station and its management. For example, the stationĂs guest on the 23rd of March was Serbian politician Vojislav Seselj, president of the Serbian Radical Party and wartime leader of paramilitary units.

TV Simic has yet to broaden its reach. The ongoing installation of a new transmitter at Kozara should extend its signal to the Bosnian Krajina.

Media news in brief

On the seventeenth of April an Australian journalist was grabbed by the police of West Mostar and detained in a police station for almost an hour, for taking pictures of the Orthodox monastery at Zitomislici (ruined when war broke out). In a press conference in Mostar the regional representative of OHR, Sir Martin Garrod, added that Zehrudin Isakovic, editor of the magazine ˘Liljan÷ (unashamedly Muslim in its outlook), was recently beaten up in the same part of the city.

Valentin Coric, the Minister of Internal affairs for the Hercegovenia-Neretva Canton sent a letter to Sir Martin claiming that the Australian journalist was arrested for taking photographs while not carrying any proper accreditation. Coric demanded that Sir Martin deny that the police of West Mostar beat up the Liljan journalist, explaining that the journalist and his driver were stopped by the police because they were endangering traffic.


The sub-committee of media experts in the Livno area considered two complaints on the ninth of April, which had been referred by the leaders of OSCE. According to David Foley, the first complaint related to the inaccurate statement issued by the SDA on in Kupres on the 11th of March, that two Bosnjak houses in the region were deliberately burned. (Oslobodjenje, 23 and 24/4).

Foley said, "the subcommittee Óagreed that the SDA in Kupres must write a correction of the statement, and an apology. Media which carried the story must also carry the correction."

The second case referred to an accusation made by the mayor of Drvar implicating Serbs in two explosions which took place in the city on the 28th of March. It was carried by Radio Drvar. Stating that there was no proof that Serbs were in any way involved in the explosions, the subcommittee decided that the mayor must make an open apology to all Serbs, and retract his statement publicly.


The Open Broadcast Network, TVIN, will continue transmitting as usual, according to TVIN Operations Director Michael Challenger, regardless of the fact that the New York based Open Society Institute (OSI), headed by the businessman and philanthropist George Soros, is ceasing its financial contributions.

Michael MacClay, OHR spokesman, who initiated the founding of TVIN, said that BildtĂs office regretted that the OSI would not be helping to finance the second phase of the project, but added that the 6 million dollars from other donors were enough to cover the implementation of the second phase - at least partly. (Oslobodjenje, 25/4).


In other TVINfo, the networkĂs Banja Luka affiliate, ATV Banja Luka, was forced to cease broadcasting last week by officials from the RS Ministry of Transportation and Communications. OHR officials say the problem is bureaucratic rather than political, and that the station should be back on the air soon.


According to SRT, the RS government decided on the 7th of April or make the creation of a second channel for the station a priority, open access to the Internet, and provide material help to the state media. (SAFAX)

Members of the Association of Sarajevo intellectuals known as Circle 99 (Krug 99), are concerned that the media scene in BiH is increasingly dominated by the conflicts and divisions of nationalist politics, they said in a letter sent to media, state and international organisations.

The language of mistrust, and hatred has not given way to the language of tolerance. Most media in the RS , and in those parts of the Federation dominated by Croat rule, continue to interpret Dayton as a legitimisation of the division of BiH, while the stateĂs internal organisations continue to operate on nationalist principles. Many of the media are ostentatious in calling themselves Bosnjak or Bosno-Hercegovenian, as if this terminology was the whole purpose of the conflict. In their announcements, they increasingly claim to be the voice of a single people. They give the impression that war is being waged in BiH - a war with fewer and fewer limits, says the letter from Circle 99. (SAFAX)

In the monitored period the following stations were covered: Srpska Radio and Television, BiH Radio and Television, Hrvatska Radio HB, TVIN, TV TPK, TV USK, TV Simic, NTV Banja Luka, TV Serbia, HRT.,

Media Plan, Sarajevo and Institute for War and Peace Reporting, London

Project Director: Zoran Udovicic; Producer: Silva Vujovic; Editor of English Edition: Colin Soloway, Marina Bowder;

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