IWPR & MEDIA PLAN
MONITORING REPORT Vol II/ No 15
THE B&H MEDIA FORTNIGHT IN REWIEW: 28. APRIL - 11 MAY '97
The fifth of May saw the start of voter-registration for the local elections. The promotional campaign unfortunately produced the impression that the elections are the business of OSCE, not Bosnia. Newspapers and electronic media diligently transmitted paid advertisements in which OSCE explained why registration happens to be important, but showed little enthusiasm for registration or elections. SRT has included voter education information in some of their newscasts, but for the most part Federation media have neglected to provide their viewers and readers with important information, such as the whereabouts of local registration centers. Neither state radio and television, nor local media succeeded in explaining to the people of Brcko the complex reasoning behind, and the possible consequences of, OSCE Chief of Mission Robert Frowick's decision on how the Brcko elections will be held. In this instance, they are not entirely to blame. OSCE officials privately bragged that Frowick's public statement was worded specifically to create confusion, and allow the parties to read into it what they like. This peculiar strategy succeeded admirably; neither entity's media or leaders seemed able to figure out exactly what Frowick had decided. Unfortunately for the OSCE, confusing voters and politicians does not make for particularly effective policy, or elections.
Also in this issue:
RESPONSE: FROM THE OFFICE OF THE FEDERATION PRESIDENCY
Monitoring Report's last issue asked Vladimir Soljic, president of the Federation why most important Bosnian Croat ministers and representatives in the Federation refuse to give statements to TV BiH. In response, we received a letter from Zoran Perkovic, spokesperson for the federal presidency. Believing that this letter expresses not only the official position of the Croat representatives, but also the personal feelings of Mr Soljic himself, we publish his response: The Washington Resolution, and the Dayton Peace Accord, began a deep and wide-reaching process of constructing new laws and governing bodies. This process has commenced in all areas, except that of the state media, although regulations concerning them were passed and ratified in the agreement in St Petersburg, 3/10/95, in Mostar, 18/5/95, and again in St Petersburg 25/4/96. The reforms of the state media, primarily radio and television, envisioned by the articles of the constitution were entrusted to a working group which was supposed to offer a methodology for reorganising the state radio and television. Sadly, no steps in this direction have up to now been taken. Bearing in mind the fact that the legitimate representatives of the Croat people have no influence on the management, politics or programming of the state Radio Television, and the fact that no equity of usage is given to the Croat language, and the fact that the representatives of the Croat people have on countless occasions sent letters of requests and advice concerning the matter, without result, the issue has reached a dead end. Up to now the management of RTV BiH, and the representatives of the Muslim-Bosnjak people in the governing bodies of the Federation and the Republic of BiH, have not shown the slightest interest coming to official agreement on the issue, or making the station answerable to the representatives of the Croat people in the governing bodies of the Federation and the Republic. Regrettably, only one solution remains - that of ignoring the work of the state radio and television, responding in kind to this one-sided refusal to cooperate.
All parties, regardless the jurisdiction of the Hague tribunal, are in full cry on the trail of those who, they consider, deserve prosecution. TV BiH (7/5) broadcast an informative, non-emotive report on Serb Dusan Tadic's completion of the Hague marathon (declared guilty, with the sentence to be announced shortly). Three days later, however, the international community was on trial for hesitancy in pressing charges and failing to differentiate between aggressors and victims. The reporter had a parallel to draw: 'It's like the court of Nuremberg saying they couldn't arrest Goring because he lived in a distant suburb and public transport wasn't running.' Events in Sarajevo on the 7th of May unfolded like a big-screen thriller: first the arrest for war crimes of Bosnjak MP Ibrahim Djedovic on his way to the Federal Parliament, then the intervention of Michael Steiner (Deputy High Representative), and the release and imposition of a police guard on the seated parliamentarian. The Bosnian government accuses Djedovic of once being a high official of the self-styled Autonomous Region of Western Bosnia, ruled by Fikret Abdic, who is himself now being charged with war crimes by the Bosnian government. The police initially claimed that The Hague had approved his arrest, but a statement from the tribunal on 8/5 said only that the evidence presented to the Hague warranted further investigation by Bosnian courts. It said nothing about arresting Djedovic. TV BiH was caught in the confusion, but did manage to relay all the parliamentary turmoil and gossip. Radio BiH contributed a statement made by opposition MP Sejfudin Tokic that, 'this scandalous arrest of a member of Parliament, in ignoring the democratic immunity of a party (the SDA) helped to destroy the reputation of BiH and the Bosnjak people.' In contrast, the television of the Una-Sana Canton (TV USK) in a special transmission, broadcast that Djedovic had been arrested for war crimes with which he had been charged by the Hague, and that his parliamentary immunity was cancelled beforehand. Perhaps the TV of this Western Bosnia canton felt too burdened by the area's past under the rule of the rebel Abdic to mention the existence of any controversy. The Djedovic case was viewed from the other side on Croatia TV's programme 'Motrista' (Focal Point). This carried Fikret Abdic explaining his theory that the 'neo-fascists' of the Bosnian government were responsible for the MP's arrest. The police of the RS added their efforts to the hunt for war criminals, targeting a pensioned officer of the BiH army, Ivan Mijacevic of Gradacac. Mijacevic was arrested while visiting his home village in what is now RS territory, on the 9th of May. All the media in the Federation attacked this action, protesting that the terms of the Dayton agreement allow for the arrest of only those named as war criminals by the Hague. SRT announced that the crime with which Mijacevic is accused was the destruction of an abandoned house near Modrica during the war. Radio and TV BiH were still, on the 28th and 29th of April obsessed with the letter sent by Alija Izetbegovic and Haris Silajdzic to the international community regarding the non-implementation of the Dayton Agreement (reported in the last issue of the Monitoring Report). On 28/4 TV BiH's main newscast 'Dnevnik', carried criticisms aimed at the international community by the leader of the Bosnjak Liberal party, Muhamed Filipovic (then about to enter into a short-lived coalition with the SDA), but on the following day Dnevnik carried the remarks of Charles Crawford, the British Ambassador, 'that Izetbegovic presents the situation as being worse than it is', and 'that the subject of the letter is the Bosnjak attitude, not the attitude of the Presidency of BiH." Srpska Radio and Television (SRT) continues to report on internal Federation problems in its 'News From the World' section of the evening newscast, emphasising Republika Srpska's separateness from the rest of Bosnia. However, time is found for whatever one side of the Federation partnership has to say about the other - with some omissions and obfuscation - as evidence of crucial incompatibility within the Federation. On the Srpska Radio daily newscast, (6/5), it was announced that 'the local government of Rama (in the Prozor municipality) issued a document forbidding the return of Muslim refugees to the village of Duga, which is under Croat control.' Or, another example, 'In Livno not one of the laws of the Federation of BiH is being implemented, only the laws of the Croat community of Herceg Bosna.' The sources of these items are usually described as 'Muslim' or 'Croat' media. Incidentally, if there is any mention of the problems being encountered by Serbs living in the Federation, the news is not included under the title, 'News from the World' but is placed elsewhere (for example, the murder of Petar Milanovic in the village of Koprivno near Sanski Most (29/4), or the expulsion and savage beating of three Serbs from Ljubusko, near Drvar (10/5). Curiously, the burning of 25 Serb houses in Drvar (5/5) by Croat extremists, drew greater attention in Sarajevo-based media that in the Serbian entity. TV BiH transmitted detailed information about the burnings and about the expulsion and beating of the Ljubusko Serbs over a three-day period, using international sources. Instead of playing on the old favorite- the suffering of Serbs at the hands of Croats and Muslims, the RS media made a concerted attack on the refugees from Drvar, accusing them of being 'unpatriotic' for wanting to return to their homes in the Federation. On Radio Herceg-Bosna the topic somehow got lost among statements that Croat refugees can only return to areas under the control of the HVO (the news from Livno, 30/4, describes the return of Croat refugees from Germany). Nobody mentioned the right of all refugees to return to their homes no matter where they are. When Sarajevo media talk about the rights of Serbs to return, they discuss the problems of returning to Croat-controlled Drvar. The harassment of Serbs trying to return to Bosnjak-controlled towns like Sarajevo, Mostar, or Zenica is never mentioned. TV BiH gives prime coverage to the visits of state and religious delegations from Islamic countries. On 2/5 the peak of the main newscast was devoted to the visit of Prince Selim bin Abdul-Aziz, of Saudi Arabia, and the previous day's news concentrated on the importance of Saudi Arabia's attitude to Bosnia and the issues of Bosnjaks. A representative from the Tuzla-based firm Soda-So was quoted saying that the inhabitants of Tuzla had received top-quality soap powder from the Saudis as an example of Saudi Arabia's goodwill towards Bosnia. He added that 'the soaps which other humanitarian organisations send are more than 60 percent salt.'
Usually Radio Brcko (RS) and Radio Slobodna (Free) Brcko (Federation) agree on nothing but their dislike of the Brcko Supervisor Robert Farrand. However, this time, Farrand was not the main target - in fact, Radio Brcko seemed almost pleased with him. The main topic was the stoning of the two buses from the Federation containing some Brcko supporters of the Social Democratic Party, who paid a May Day visit to (Serb-controlled) central Brcko. Mirsad Dzapo, deputy leader of the Federation Brcko municipality, led the group back to Federation territory, and proceeded to hold interviews with Radio SB, on the theme 'there is no multi-ethnicity under RS rule.' The commentator and other interviewees followed this up with, expressions like 'home-grown Cetniks', 'the Serb-Montenegrin armada', 'the Cetnik government,' and the statement, 'this event shows what a primitive people the Serbs are.' SDP members did however attempt to distinguish between Serbs generally and the particular 'criminals' who threw stones at the buses. Serb Radio Brcko, meanwhile, had covered the incident a day ahead - the president of the Serb Brcko municipality, Miodrag Pajic turned up on the 30/4 newscast to announce, 'the arrival in Brcko of a group of Muslims on the first of May cannot be treated as a demonstration of freedom of movement, but as a provocative act, which will probably produce an incident which this town does not need.' The day after the incident the station was mysteriously silent about the events of the preceding holiday, announcing instead that 'Mr Farrand advised a gathering of Muslims in the office of the High Representative not to listen to their political leaders and media, but to read the return procedure for themselves.' On 2/5 the SRT commentator said, 'the politicised arrival of guests from the Federation wearing red carnations and led by Zlatko Lagumdzija (leader of the SDP) and Mirsad Dzapo, deputy leader. Mr Farrand, obviously unaffected by red carnations, warned the visitors that returnees had to follow the laws of the Republika Srspka. It looks as if Farrand managed to spoil the May Day holiday mood of the Muslims, for they left looking remarkably dissatisfied.' Serb Radio Brcko's 3/5 broadcast carried Farrand's announcement that the incident was an attack on freedom of movement, and an attempt to terrorise Bosnjaks. The following day (4/5), the commentator described the incident as 'a spontaneous gathering of peoples_ An emotional reaction to the expulsion of Serbs from Sarajevo and Zenica.' Leading to 'those stones, which, true, are not the most democratic form of communication between people, even those who were at war with each other until yesterday.'
Since the end of the war, the generals have been getting short shrift in the media. But General Pero Colic, commander of the RS army, on Serb Radio Brcko's 6/5 newscast gave the most disturbing interview of the monitoring period. Colic's comments were broadcast as part of a story on the Gypsy holiday, Djurdjevdan. The presenter leapt the rather wide gap between the cultural program and political scheming, by drawing a parallel between the General and the spiritual heritage of the Serbs, and the conversation devolved around 'the growing appetite of the Muslim leaders in Sarajevo' against which Brcko and the RS 'must be ready to fight with heart and soul, if necessary.' The General seemed more inspired by the words of the presenter- 'Data gathered in the preceding months warns of the planning of a new 'Flash' and 'Storm' (names of Bosnjak-Croat campaigns)'- than by the choruses and music of the Djurdjevdan celebrations. He proceeded to warn listeners, 'To me in my position as chief of High Command, an important source of anxiety is presented by certain Serbs who are fraternising with Muslims, and, more dangerous still, hiding them, guarding their houses and possessions, while the families of our dead and wounded must live in the open. I regard this as the greatest disgrace. Serbs who are doing this are not true Serbs, and have laid themselves open to the law. And what is most dangerous, is that the majority of Muslims who come with the aim of viewing their property, etc., come with certain instructions. Their main task is to act as spies and counter-spies, in accordance with the instructions which they received from their leaders. Serbs must understand this_and I call your attention to this yet again, and I appeal repeatedly, that every true Serb must make public any contact he has with Muslims.'
Mostar's local media wars continued to wane during the monitoring period, with one notable exception. Both Bosnjak and Croat media focused on the incident of Mostar's hydro-electric dam on May 7th. The dam is under Bosnian Croat control, but a company from Sarajevo, 'Elektroprivreda', and a local Croat firm are supposed to repair it. On the 7th the dam was the scene of a clash between the local hydro-electric workers, Croat police, and the chiefs of 'Elektroprivreda' with their bodyguards. TV Mostar (East) gave a chronological account of events, backed by statements from international and local officials, without commentary. The 7/5 newscast said, 'the public up to now has received scant information on why Federation leaders and the two firms involved have not taken Sir Martin Garrod's letter sufficiently seriously. (Sir Martin, representative of OHR in Mostar, warned the Federation leaders that the situation might get out of hand, 24/4). Fortunately, today and in the next few days talks open between the representatives of the two firms.' HTV Mostar also gave a chronological account, backed by the statements of Bosnian Croat officials and internationals, but the commentary was far from balanced: the newscast of 8/5 said, 'that this attempt to provoke trouble, as even a blind man could see, was set up like the scenario of February the 10th (the day Bosnian Croat police fired on a group of Bosnjaks who visiting a cemetery in West Mostar). This raises the question, what do the organisers of this scenario, the Muslim central police, think they can get out of Mostar right now?' The commentator went on to say that, 'taking into consideration the fact that the public and internationals will accept the logic that the government cannot answer for what these people are doing_the indoctrination of a group of civilians points to the Muslim political leaders. Insofar as the Croat police are forcibly drawn into the conflict, civilians will again, according to the dictates of the Muslim scenario, be innocent victims, and the Croat police, and with them the Croat government, will again appear as unthinking murderers, fascists, secessionists_'
*The reporter of Croat Radio Herceg-Bosna on the newscast Kronik told listeners about the protests against the local community centre by the inhabitants of Bukinja, Tuzla. In a letter to the president of Tuzla Canton, Selim Beslagic, Croat citizens complained about the decision of the local government to move ten gypsy families into their district. "It is known that earlier this area was used by the community centre for dumping garbage, and the decision of the municipality government to move gypsy families here constitutes a direct attack on Croat interests,' said the reporter.
* The Croatian Consul in Bihac, Bernard Jurlina, attacked the Bihac powers that be on Croatia Television's programme 'Motrista' for infringing the rights of Croat citizens in the canton. 'Croats do not participate in any of the decision-making in the Una-Sana Canton, and the one and only Croat representative in the Cantonal parliament was forced to leave it,' said this diplomat. He also revealed that '50 000 citizens of Bihac have Croatian passports, among whom are some local officials.' The governor of the canton, Mirsad Veladzic, responded to this in a press conference, carried by TV Una-Sana Canton (29/4). 'If anywhere in BiH there can be said to be democracy, and if anywhere the Dayton agreement is respected, it is here,' said the governor, adding, 'In this canton the election results have absolute respect, and the HDZ (Croat Democratic Community party) has just as much power in the government as it derived from the elections.'
* Srpska radio carried the statement of Miodrag Rakic, the secretary general of Republika Srpska's Serbian Radical Party, about the Tuzla cantonal government's obstruction of Orthodox Bishop Vasilji Kacavenda's Easter visit to Tuzla (later the government shifted their stance somewhat, but too late). Rakic said, 'Freedom of movement is possible in the territory of the Republika Srpska. Members of the Serb people are arrested as soon as they set foot on Federation territory.'
* An official of the BiH embassy in Bonn was noticed at a gathering organised on Constitution day by the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia's embassy, in company with his Croatia counterpart (28/4) According to the TV Serbia's 28/4 newscast, this was the first occasion when the representatives of these countries took part in any of the FRY embassy functions. How come no news of this arrived in Bosnia?
* TVIN/OBN has changed broadcasters in Sarajevo, switching from TV Hayat to TV X, as of May 7th. Unlike Hayat, which only showed OBN's news program, TVX broadcasts all six hours of OBN entertainment and current affairs programming. OBN is in the process of reorganization, with new contracts with the existing members of the network, TV Tuzla, Zenica's Zetel, RTV Mostar, and ATV Banja Luka. New stations may join soon.
* TV BiH is going to court for the second time in two years to defend its rights to its archive collection. On the list of accused are Independent Television Hayat, and OSCE. Simultaneously, local music composers are complaining of inequitable treatment: the authorial rights of foreign composers are respected and paid for, and local composers 'don't get a dinar'. (Oslobodjenje, Antena, 10/5)
* The Federation for Peace and Crisis Resolution, with the help of independent radio B92 from Belgrade, are offering documentary programmes about the everyday life of ordinary people, for exchange. The documentaries, which treat the themes of social powerlessness and despair, are being distributed on audio cassettes and are on offer to interested radio stations in BiH, via the telephone service agency SAFAX.
* Banja Luka, on the 9th and 10th of May, was the setting for the monthly Inter-Entity Journalists' Conference organised by the OSCE. Present were representatives of the independent media, and journalists from SRNA (the RS official newsagency), HABENA (the Croat agency from Herzegovina) and RTV BiH's reporter from Bihac. This kind of gathering boosts media interest in establishing journalists' centers in regions which have, up to now, not been represented in efforts to reduce tension and mistrust between journalists.
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, Radio Brcko (RS), Radio Slobodno Brcko (F BiH), TV Mostar, HTV Mostar, TV Serbia, HRT
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