THE MEDIA IN POST-CONFLICT SOCIETIES:
A Background Paper for the UNESCO World Press Day Conference in Geneva
THE CASE STUDIES: BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA
Monroe E. Price
Bosnia-Herzegovina presents an unusually comprehensive case study of the
difficulties, in a harsh, complex post-conflict environment, of rebuilding and
reshaping the media, both to allow a peace process to go forward and,
simultaneously, to rebuild institutions that create a more stable and democratic
future. It is an especially important case for the study of intervention and
management of the electronic media, considered to have a primary role in shaping
public attitudes. Other forms of communication—newspapers, mass rallies, and
the various manifestations of civil society—all played their part. But the
focus here is on television and radio. The wounds of war, funding uncertainties,
competition or confusion among players in the international community,
governmental and nongovernmental organisations, debates about first principles
of human rights—all of these play a part in a story in which there are few, if
any, easy answers.
In Bosnia-Herzegovina, as in elsewhere, the conditions for post-conflict
administration could be found within the war and the period that preceded it.
Media was used to spread terror and fan the flames of war in the former
Yugoslavia. Several months before anyone in the region outwardly bore arms,
nationalist leaders in the various Yugoslav republics began laying the
groundwork for war by planning media campaigns. Slobodan Milosevic sent
paramilitary troops and technicians to seize a dozen television transmitters in
the northern and eastern parts of Bosnia in the spring of 1992. These areas are
close to Serbia and had substantial Serb populations. As a result, more than
half the people in the territory of Bosnia-Herzegovina began receiving a
television signal controlled by Belgrade rather than the usual television from
Sarajevo. Bosnian leaders begged U.S. officials at the U.S. embassy in Belgrade
to jam Serbian television broadcasts. The idea of a unified Bosnia information
space, with a national signal emanating from Sarajevo, was immediately fractured,
and the stage was set to wage a fierce propaganda war that would precede any
The Serbs were not the only ones who understood that the key to power and
influence was television. Well before any fighting began in Bosnia, Croatian
television, like Serbian, was airing nationalist broadcasts discussing how the
Serbs intended to exterminate the Croat population in order to form a "Greater
Serbia." These incendiary programmes suggested to Croats that they were in
mortal danger from the Serbs and that they should arm themselves before it was
Firmly under the control of the nationalist leaders who would lead the
war, Bosnian Serb controlled Serb Radio and Television used the same tactics,
during and after the conflict, as Belgrade television had before the war.
Croatian television from Zagreb began broadcasting reports claiming that Islamic
fundamentalists were trying to create a state where Catholic Croats would be
oppressed and subjugated. Independent voices existed, taking views contrary to
the official perspective, but they were routinely harassed, mostly unread or
unheard, and did little to change public opinion.
The Dayton Accords
The war in Bosnia, a brutal combination of psychological manipulation and
physical violence, ended with the December 1995 Dayton Accords. The military
component of the Dayton Accords took weeks to plan and was stated in great
detail. The civilian aspects of the Dayton
were not prepared with the same attention. The Accords stipulated that the Organisation
for Security and Cooperation in Europe ("OSCE") would organise elections that the
United Nations would oversee. They also called for the creation of an unarmed
civilian police force to oversee the conventional police forces in each entity.
Furthermore, they gave the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees power
to oversee the return or resettlement of displaced peoples or refugees. A High
Representative chosen by the Contact Group would coordinate the activities of
the different organisations. The aim of these sections of the Accord was to
reconstitute Bosnia's former multi-ethnic nature and create a Bosnian national
identity against a backdrop of continuing ethnic hatred and loyalties.
specified that the OSCE would set up a Provisional Election Commission ("PEC")
to oversee the elections at the federal, entity, and municipal levels. The PEC
was specifically empowered to adopt electoral rules and regulations concerning
the registration of political parties, voter eligibility, international
observers, and other measures to ensure that "open and fair electoral
campaigns" could take place. The parties were required to obey the PEC
rules stipulated in the Accords, as well as any rules and regulations the PEC
would create pursuant to the agreement.
State of the Media After the Dayton Accords
control over their territories, nationalist Bosnian Serb and Bosnian Croat
leaders clung to their party-controlled media. The Serb-held parts of Bosnia
were still covered by broadcasts of the rabidly nationalist Serb Radio and
Television ("SRT") and the Croat-held parts of Bosnia continued to
receive broadcasts from the rabidly nationalist Croatian Radio and Television
("HRT"). The Bosniak-controlled part of the country remained under the
coverage of Bosnia-Herzegovina Radio and Television ("RTBiH").
ethnic groups started vying for more effective use and control of the airwaves
in their spheres of influence. Croats, Serbs and Muslims all repaired
war-damaged television transmitters on mountains in their respective territories,
attempting to broadcast their respective frequencies as far and wide as possible.
The Serbian government in Belgrade set up a television transmitter in Serbia
near the border of the newly-created Republika Srpska to broadcast Serbian television throughout
the Serb-controlled entity. In addition, the Serbian government aided the
Bosnian Serbs in repairing war-damaged transmitters. The Croatian government
added additional transmitters in Croatia near the Bosnian border to broadcast
Croatian television into Bosnian territory, and aided the Bosnian Croats in
repairing existing transmitters and installing new ones. More important, the
Zagreb authorities used a front-company under nominal Bosnian Croat control to
re-broadcast the HRT signal throughout most of Bosnia. Assistance was received
from the Norwegian government to renovate and repair some twenty-one television
transmitters to enhance the coverage of the multi-ethnic voice necessary to
facilitate reconciliation. All parties in the [*8] war were clearly intent on
continuing to spread their wartime doctrines during the peace brought about by
Dayton Implementation and the Media
after the Dayton Accords were signed in Paris, Ambassador Robert Frowick, the
American who headed the OSCE
mission in Bosnia, arrived in Sarajevo to begin planning for the elections.
Frowick and the other diplomats implementing the Dayton Accords realised that
changing the state of the partitioned and nationalistic media was crucial for
unifying the country as envisioned by the Accords. Without a stronger
multi-ethnic voice, Bosnians—Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats—could be limited to
information from their respective fiercely nationalistic and separatist
television programmes. If alternative sources of information were not provided
across the country, the same nationalist leaders who waged the war and still
controlled the airwaves were likely to be voted back into power. For the
elections to be a success in terms of the Accords, the international community
considered it necessary to play a role in adjusting media practices to assure a
fuller and freer debate before the elections.
organisations involved in implementing the peace plan called on Bosnian
politicians to soften their media's nationalist and provocative programming. The
OSCE established a Media Experts Commission ("MEC")
as a sub-commission to the PEC. The MEC issued a set of rules and regulations
the media was expected to follow that included "providing true and accurate
information," "refraining from broadcasting incendiary programming,"
and running OSCE and international election-related statements and
advertisements. It also ordered the three television systems controlled by the
ruling parties in Bosnia's entities to provide opposition political parties with
the same amount of advertising time as the ruling nationalist parties. It then
set up a monitoring group that could write citations for media violations of its
rules and regulations.
to establishing rules governing the existing media, the OSCE helped finance a
special broadcast network, the Free Elections Radio Network ("FERN"),
part of a project initially started by the Swiss government, to provide "objective
and timely information on the elections" to the people of
Bosnia-Herzegovina in all entities. The project envisioned reaching seventy
percent of Bosnia-Herzegovina well before the elections, with signals equally
split between the Muslim-Croat Federation and Republika Srpska. But the Bosnian Serb leadership claimed they
could not install the transmitters FERN needed because the roads leading to the
mountains where they needed to be placed were mined. The OSCE and the Swiss
government did manage to get FERN on the air in Banja Luka, but within days, the
Serb authorities blocked its transmission. When FERN went on the air in July
1996, only two months before the vote, it reached only forty percent of the
territory of Bosnia-Herzegovina, all within Muslim-Croat Federation. FERN thus
had no impact in Republika Srpska, where the population was most in need of
alternative sources of information.
Office of the High Representative and the Open Broadcast Network
the creation of FERN, the Office of the High Representative proposed creating an
independent television network with the stated intention of providing balanced
information prior to the elections. The network's aim would be to provide [*9]
"unbiased information" from both local and international journalists
as well as commercial programmes from around the world to the whole of
Bosnia-Herzegovina. The network came to be known as the Open
("OBN"). The then-High Representative, Carl
developed the concept during February and March 1996 and announced it in April.
Governments and NGOs committed to establishing the OBN included the United States Information Agency ("USIA"),
member states of the European Union ("EU"), both bilaterally and
through the European Commission ("EC"), and the Soros
Foundation's Open Society Institute ("OSI").
outset, there were two opposing concepts regarding the structure of OBN. The
first was to build a new network with journalists covering all sides of the
ethnic conflict, as well as a large number of staff and officers brought from
outside the country. The second concept was to provide training to the existing
independent stations, then build an affiliate network that would connect them.
Although the then-High Representative, Carl Bildt, had advocated the first
version, nearly all the donors wanted the latter. They argued that a wholly new
operation would have been perceived as imposed and would therefore lack
credibility among Bosnians on all sides. By August, just a month before the
elections, OBN was still not on the air and both the peace mediators and the
donor nations realised that the project's impact on the September elections
would be negligible.
The OHR, OSI,
USIA and the EU continued with the project, finally creating a network of
television stations that went on the air a few days before the election. Only a
handful of stations, all but one in the Muslim-Croat Federation, agreed to be a
part of the OBN. Only an estimated one-third of the Bosnian population could see
it, with no coverage in Republika Srpska. And for its debut, the opening credits
were written on a piece of paper, crookedly held by a pair of visible hands.
FERN and OBN
were not successful in their goal of creating a more pluralistic media across
Bosnia-Herzegovina before the elections. Neither were other attempts to alter
the media environment. UNESCO
established a programme bank in Sarajevo. It asked European countries to donate
some of their national broadcasting about history, arts and culture. These
programmes would be broadcast on television stations across Bosnia-Herzegovina,
helping to improve content and to avoid piracy. However, the effort had little
success in producing more balanced broadcasts from the television stations. NATO
troops also made an effort to spread alternative information. They created their
own radio station, Radio Mir, or Peace Radio. USAID sponsored election
advertisements that called on Bosnians in both entities to utilise their right
to vote to ensure "peace, democracy and the future of their country."
ordered all three party-controlled television stations to air the advertisements.
However, according to local Bosnian newspapers, much of the population viewed
the ads as condescending.
negligible impact of the respective efforts of OBN, FERN, NATO and the others to
provide the most ill-informed public with more objective information, and
despite the fact that the nationalistic, party-controlled television stations in
each entity continued to have the most influence over the respective ethnic
populations, the OSCE went ahead with the September 1996 national elections. Not
surprisingly, the same nationalist leaders who led their respective peoples
through four years of war were re-elected.
the national elections were over, the international community in
Bosnia-Herzegovina placed an emphasis on establishing an independent and
pluralist media in the country, with preference that it could be accomplished
before the municipal elections were to take place the following year, in
September 1997. The donors held another meeting, this time in Brussels, in
October 1996, one month after the national elections. They agreed to continue
supporting OBN until it became profitable, which they estimated could take
anywhere from three to five years.
Even with the
pledged support, the network was plagued with difficulties. The various sponsors
started bickering with each other over how the network should be run. The
Bosnia-Herzegovina state communica-tions directorate sent a letter to the OHR
accusing the international community itself of violating international law by,
in effect, granting a license to OBN without coordinating with the legal
authorities of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and a complaint was filed with the
International Telecommuni-cation Union, claiming interference with the existing
difficulties grew, it became clear that neither the Bosnians nor the donors were
happy with OBN and that few people were watching it. Finally, in April 1997, the
OSI withdrew its money and support, dealing the biggest blow yet to the network.
There were rumours that the whole project would collapse. But the donor nations
and the EU vowed to continue financing the project and, in August 1997, OHR
hired a new team of Bosnians and trained them to run the station.
Direct Aid- USAID, SOROS, EC/EU, and Others
OBN was not
the sole mode used by USIA and USAID, among others, to create and develop a more
pluralistic press. Europe and Newly Independent States ("ENI"), part
of USAID, were disbursing contracts to Internews and IREX to provide training
and buy equipment for television stations other than OBN. The Office of
Transition Initiatives ("OTI"), another branch of USAID, established
offices in Banja Luka, Sarajevo, Tuzla, and Zenica and began providing direct
grants to independent media. OTI
disbursed 6.3 million dollars to media in Bosnia-Herzegovina between February
1996 and November 1998.
By the spring
of 1997, the situation had changed somewhat. Several months before the municipal
elections, the U.S. had decided to back Biljana Plavsic, a one-time Karadzic
associate who had turned against the war-time leader and established a
stronghold in Banja Luka. A tendency on the part of a local media source to
favour Plavsic was likely to yield greater U.S. financial support. In the spring
of 1997, OTI gave out $4 million dollars in media grants to 19 newspapers, 27
radio stations and 8 television stations. Few, if any, independent sources of
news and information had been available in Republika Srpska in the spring of
1996, but by the next year, television, radio, and newspapers supported by OTI
helped inform the public about the power struggle between Plavsic and Karadzic.
The alternative media financed by OTI attempted to uncover past instances of
government corruption, economic distress, and lost opportunities. This laid the
groundwork for Plavsic to consolidate power.
addition to these efforts by USAID, the EU and OSI, various governments also
gave direct grants, for training and equipment, to various independent media in
both Republika Srpska and the Muslim-Croat Federation. For example, OSI set up a
broadcast training school in conjunction with the BBC where young journalists
were brought to Sarajevo from all over Bosnia-Herzegovina for six weeks to
receive training from BBC journalists and producers.
In spite of
these efforts to create alternative sources of information across
Bosnia-Herzegovina, the media remained divided into three mutually antagonistic
components based in Republika Srpska, Bosniak-controlled Federation territory
and Croat-controlled Federation territory. The respective party-controlled
television stations remained the most influential media outlets and the main
source of news for each of Bosnia's ethnic groups. The international community's
attempts to create an alternative to the party-controlled media had not been
sufficient to combat the nationalist television stations, which continued to
stir up hostility. Indeed, the respective media were not only hostile towards
each other, but also towards the international community and Sfor. Sfor and the
OHR felt that much of their work toward reconciliation was being jeopardised by
the news and propaganda of nationalist television and radio.
In 30 May
1997, the members of the Steering Board ("Board")
of the Peace Implementation Council ("PIC") of the Contact Group had
their semi-annual meeting in Sintra, Portugal, to review the progress of
Dayton's implementation. Regarding the relationship between the media and the
Dayton Accords, the Board concluded that more needed to be done to "encourage
independent publishers and broadcasters," in order to prepare the ground
"for the elections [and enable] wider access to information and promote
political pluralism." These conclusions were formalised in the Sintra
which OHR treated as an extension of the Accords, though neither the elected
Bosnian officials nor the original signatories to the Accords were required to
sign the Declaration.
Declaration attempted to encourage independent media in a variety of ways. In
addition to calling for more support for the development of OBN, the Declaration
called on the authorities of Bosnia-Herzegovina to "give every possible
form of practical assistance with respect to licenses, frequencies, free access
by the High Representative to news media and the ability of the OBN and other
independent media to broadcast." The Declaration then stated that The High
Representative, "has the right to curtail or suspend any media network or
programme whose output is in persistent and blatant contravention of either the
spirit or letter of the Peace Agreement."
Seizure of Transmitters
extraordinary provision of the Sintra Declaration seemed to establish the power
of Sfor and the OHR to block media outlets throughout Bosnia and that power was
exercised in the seizure of television towers in Republika Srpska. For more than
six months in late 1997 and 1998, the NATO Stabilisation Force, under orders
from the Office of the High Representative controlled key broadcast transmitters
there for "security protection." In the midst of a key election, a
favoured by the international community, to oppose and succeed Radavan Karadzic
in Republika Srpska was being attacked viciously on the electronic media. She
was portrayed by SRT as a "traitor to the Serb [*12] nation" and a
"pawn of the international community." Unless Plavsic could more
effectively reach the people receiving broadcasts from SRT, her chances of
winning the electoral battle were considered slim.
For this and
other reasons concerning the suppression of certain virulently anti-Sfor
sentiments, calls for action and reactions to these calls escalated. On August
14, a high ranking U.S. Senator suggested that U.S. planes jam SRT signals while
simultaneously transmitting "broadcasts that depict the true reasons for [the
Serbian people's] isolation and poor standing in the international community."
The Bosnian Serb information minister, Miroslav Toholj, stated that any U.S.
administration operation to jam SRT would be considered an act of war. Several
days later, on August 18, OHR requested that SRT broadcast a statement intended
to inform the Serb public about the content of the Sintra Declaration and the
obligation of leaders on all sides in Bosnia to abide by it. SRT refused and in
a fateful report it compared Sfor with the Nazis and referred to them as "occupying
forces." With the logo "SS-for" instead of S-for, the broadcast
alternated images of Sfor soldiers with World War II German Stormtroopers.
on August 23, the new High Representative, Carlos Westendorp, sent a letter to
Momcilo Krajisnik, the Serb member of the Bosnia-Herzegovina Presidency
demanding that SRT broadcast an OHR statement explaining the Sintra Declaration
by 10 PM that day. Westendorp called the broadcast comparing Sfor to Nazis
"absolutely unacceptable." He suggested Sfor might take action by
seizing television towers to stop the Pale media propaganda against the peace
forces in Bosnia. SRT promptly submitted to Westendorp's demand, and broadcast
the statement before the deadline though the station complained that the High
Representative's actions exceeded the bounds of the Dayton Accords and
re-broadcast the clip comparing Sfor to the Nazis.
On August 22,
in the next step of what became the transformation of SRT, U.S. troops seized a
television broadcast tower in Udrigovo, a northeastern town, under the pretence
that they were trying to prevent possible clashes between Plavsic's supporters
and Karadzic's supporters. A week later, pursuant to an agreement, Sfor handed
the tower back to the SRT authorities in Pale. Included in the agreement were
the following conditions: that the media of the Serb Republic stop producing
inflammatory reports against Sfor and the other international organisations
implementing the Dayton Accords; that SRT Pale would regularly provide an hour
of prime time programming to air political views other than those of the ruling
party; that SRT Pale provide the High Representative with a daily half hour of
prime time programming to introduce himself and talk about recent developments;
and that the Serb Republic agree to abide by all the rules being established by
what would become the international community's Media Support Advisory Group.
26, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former
Yugoslavia, Louise Arbour, gave a press conference in Sarajevo, which was
covered by SRT. An SRT Pale announcer introduced Arbour's press conference with
a commentary claiming that the Tribunal was a political instrument and that it
was prejudiced against the Serbs. The United Nations, which is a member of the
MSAG, considered this a breach of prior understandings and demanded that SRT
Pale make a public apology on television. On September 30, SRT Pale did so,
Serb-Radio-TV in this way wishes to apologise unreservedly for its
misrepresentation of a news conference given by the prosecutor of The Hague
Louise Arbour. We will read out a statement to this effect made by the
prosecutor. The statement will be followed by the complete and unedited footage
of the news conference given by Judge Arbour last Friday, during her visit to
In spite of
SRT Pale's apology, Sfor troops seized control of certain SRT transmitters the
next day (October 1), thereby preventing SRT Pale from transmitting its
broadcasts. They would not be returned from Sfor protection until there was a
change in leadership among the Bosnian Serbs, and then not until April 1998.
Comprehensive Media Reform and the Independent Media Commission
recognised the peril of failing to provide clear and consistent guidelines to
the media actors in Bosnia but, instead, intervening on a case-by-case basis. It
decided to comprehensively reform the entire regulatory media regime in Bosnia.
It determined to create an entire framework—an architecture of media law—with
objective standards and a mechanism to determine whether a media violation
occurred and the proper sanction for each violation. The reform sought to put
into place a new legal system with tribunals, enforcement mechanisms, and
licensing agencies with the result that the media system would no longer be
"ethnically based and directly or indirectly associated to the main
mono-ethnic political parties."
ultimately become the Independent Media Commission started life as the
Intermediate Media Standards and Licensing Commission. This Commission absorbed
the election-related functions of the Media Experts Commission and required all
broadcasters to meet a set of internationally recognised standards of
broadcasting in order to obtain a license. The OHR expected to create a judicial
body with "powers of sanction to ensure compliance" with the rulings
of the Commission. The aspiration was that international experts, and Bosnian
representatives from both the Federation and Republika Srpska would staff the
reform was based on a December 1997 proposal to the OHR. According to this
proposal, the intermediate Commission would remain in operation until
institutions that could perform the functions of the Intermediate Commission
were in place at the national level, the entity level, or the canton levels. The
proposal justified this comprehensive action because "monolithic control
allowed broadcasting in Bosnia to be used as a means to divide the ethnic
communities." Not only was it true that "the distribution of poisonous
propaganda was a major contributor to the war," but "it is still used
to indoctrinate the communities." The OHR considered the Commission and
comprehensive legal reform necessary to avoid a situation where the media "emphasiz[ed]
separatism" and thus "h[eld] back the peace process."
Since the OHR
felt that the systemic and architectural problems of the existing media model in
Bosnia were so pervasive, it observed that restructuring all media, particularly
broadcast media, in accordance with internationally accepted standards was the
only way to achieve "pluralism and inter-entity broadcasting." The new
system [*14] would include "codes of conduct for programme content,"
modelled on "the established practice[s] in Western European democracies
and in North America." The proposal provided that these codes would also
apply to the press and the Internet. Until state agencies were established (and
approved), the Intermediate Commission would establish, regulate, and enforce
Commission was to have three divisions. The first division was an all-media
complaints commission. It would affirmatively monitor the press and broadcast
media, investigate complaints regarding violations of the codes of practice, and
recommend action on those complaints it found valid. The second division was a
licensing sub-commission that would establish and administer structural and
editorial licensing standards. All broadcasters seeking a license would have to
conform to the licensing commission's standards. The third division was an
intervention tribunal that would rule on disciplinary procedures and provide
sanctions and penalties when appropriate.
would have the authority to require "one or more on-screen apologies,"
or "one or more apologies to be published in the press and on radio."
It could prohibit rebroadcast of an "offending programme or its content"
and temporarily withdraw a license for access to the transmission system.
Additionally, it was empowered to curtail a license or revoke a license entirely.
Finally, it had the power to impose financial penalties on either the station or
the directors or principals of the station regardless of whether the station was
owned by the government.
1998, the Commission had issued its first comprehensive notice with standards
for programme content including a prohibition on the transmission of any
material which incited ethnic or religious hatred among the communities of
Bosnia Herzegovina and a requirement that general community standards of decency
and civility be observed. The media were precluded from promoting the interests
of a single political party. The right of reply was required when broadcast
material "unjustly places a person in an unfavourable light, or otherwise
if fairness and impartiality require it." A newspaper and periodicals press
code incorporating many of the same principles was created but appeared to be
morally, as opposed to legally, binding on reporters, editors and owners, as its
terms were couched in ethics rather than mandatory obligations.
In the almost
two years since the implementation of the IMC, there have been dramatic events
and changes, all underscoring the complexity of imposing an elaborate legal
structure in a speech-related area in a way that is designed, ultimately to have
legitimacy and community support. Stations have been shut down for refusing to
obtain temporary licenses, there have been great difficulties in gaining
cooperation from the entities in nominating participants, and the IMC has been
accused of actions that are strong-arm and inconsistent with its ultimate goals.
It is a process still in formation and in need of thorough evaluation and
assessment as a model for future post-conflict interventions. Serbia and Croatia
continued to seek to use their media relationships in BiH to maintain
centrifugal tendencies and, in some ways, to undermine the Dayton Accords.
Zagreb's activity in this respect has been even more pernicious than Belgrade's.
While RTS news broadcasts from Belgrade have not always been carried into the
Republika Srpska, depending on the fluctuating relationship between Bosnian Serb
leaders and the Milosevic regime, all three channels of HRT [*15] television
have been carried around the clock into southern, western, central, and northern
Bosnia-Herzegovina. In the continuing attempt to make the Sfor mission effective,
these retransmissions were seen as threatening the peacekeeping mission,
interfering with the potential for fair elections and making difficult the
possibility of shaping a multi-ethnic trans-regional identity. Ultimately,
though political change in Croatia affects events markedly, this process of
retransmission led to transmitter seizures and station closedowns as recently as
A report on the conditions for the granting of broadcast licenses, in
October, 1999, outlined problems as the IMC saw them at that time:
Partisan political control of public broadcasting: The large number of
publicly-funded stations reflects continued partisan political control of most
stations at the municipal and cantonal level.
Partisan political control of private broadcasting: Political groupings
in both entities control or heavily influence certain private broadcasters
through direct support or by guiding sponsorship and advertising funds to these
broadcasters from party-controlled state enterprises (including PTTs) and
nominally private firms with close ties to party leaderships.
Absence of a media market and foreign investment in media: Experience
elsewhere in Central/Eastern
demonstrates that the emergence of a market economy and resulting advertising
revenue serves to liberate broadcasting from dependence on political groups. BiH
currently attracts essentially no foreign investment in any sector, including
media. Few if any broadcasters currently survive entirely on their marketing
skills. In lieu of foreign investment, many of the more qualified stations
depend on a diminishing, still poorly coordinated, flow of donations from the
Rampant piracy: Uncontrolled piracy permits oversaturation of the market
with non-viable, low-grade television broadcasting, discourages participation by
major international advertisers and disadvantages those commercial stations with
the skills to survive in a regulated market.
Absence of country-wide frequency planning: Three uncoordinated centres
of licensing operating from 1992 to mid-1998 created major problems of
interference among stations and were partly responsible for obstructing orderly
development of economically viable regional and country-wide commercial networks.
At the same time, certain stations have taken on the character of regional
networks, not through normal competitive processes driven by quality or audience
appeal but either through political connections or with artificial support from
the international community.
Low-level of programme production and engineering skills: The general
absence of regulations to establish quality standards in broadcasting has
permitted the proliferation of sub-standard stations that compound problems of
signal interference and are poorly equipped to provide any degree of public
service. Even commercial broadcasters should be expected to provide a measure of
public service in broadcasting in return for access to broadcast spectrum—a
public [*16] resource—but relatively few stations are able to do so.
virulence and reducing conflict-laden partisanship was one objective of the
international community. A more affirmative role was creating a new pluralism
through encouraging new free and independent media and, as well, enhancing a
public service broadcasting system that would contribute to a unified and more
coherent state. Numbers of outlets steadily rose. By the year 2000, Bosnia and
Herzegovina contained a very high concentration of radio and television
broadcasters; the IMC had given temporary licenses to 272 broadcast
organisations using more than 750 radio and television transmitters, or one for
every 4,700 people.
do not necessarily spell economic survival or a pluralism contributing to a
public sphere. Variances existed in strategies between NGO's and among members
of the international governmental community in determining how this goal of
building an information-based, plural, stable and democratic state should be
implemented. The OHR emphasised, though hardly exclusively, the use of its
office and the IMC to restructure a publicly-funded and publicly-run public
service broadcasting sector. Many of the NGO's, especially those funded by the United
States Agency for International Development were geared to the support of local, ultimately commercially supported,
but pluralism-enhancing private radio and television outlets.
the difficulties were ones of priorities, perhaps more than ultimate differences
over outcomes. OHR and Sfor expressed needs for transmitter locations in areas
that were on borders between entities, while the NGO's might have preferred an
emphasis in population centres more homogenous. European donors and the European
came from a tradition vaunting the public service national approach while U.S.
change agents were more inclined to the local and the private. The NGO's (with
funding from government entities to be sure), emphasised journalist training and
an increase in professionalism. The institutions established by the OHR were
preoccupied with structuring and implementing a legal system of licensing and
modulating separatist content that persists in the further ethnicization of
politics. Government institutions were more concerned with the
information-content of media while NGOs like Internews were interested in
finding ways of making new outlets commercially viable.
What arises from the Bosnian experience is a series of dualisms that cast
light on post-conflict issues generally.
· Military strategies and needs have a different architectural form from
those of most NGO's and those grounded only in civil administration. At the
outset, particularly, Sfor, concerned about its own safety and the success of
the peace-keeping mission, was preoccupied with security and the efficient
fulfilment of its mission. The immediate post-conflict phase, in almost any
context, had its own imperatives. In the longer term, the radical nature of
steps to control the information space in time of crisis have to be moderated,
as the goals shift to the building of more permanent institutions. Some,
especially in the NGO community, captured this distinction as the difference
between short-term and long-term goals.
· As a consequence of strategic differences, budgetary and planning
conflicts persisted. The urgency and emergency of the initial assertion of the
peacekeeping operation involved a need to use whatever tools were available,
including the media, to present the authority and policy of the IGOs, especially
Sfor, OSCE and the OHR. In the longer run it was necessary to engage in what
might be called "peace broadcasting" or promotion of a unified public
space. The funding and strategic elements of these processes sometimes were in
harmony, and sometimes in conflict with the third critical element of the
process: the need to engender an indigenous media sector that would maintain
itself in the long run, that could make itself, ultimately, independent of the
international community, and that would contribute to a renewed civil society.
· Sfor and OHR requirements to communicate affirmatively conflicted with
the need of outlets to demonstrate independence and gain audience loyalty. SRT
and other outlets were used to carry, directly, the communiqués of the Office
of High Representative, or later, of the Hague Tribunal. The distribution and
encouragement of media was governed, in part, by the official need to extend a
message that was unifying, mediating, and contributed to conflict resolution.
The OHR, the OSCE and Sfor had a deep, important, and fundamentally
psychological mission to accomplish. They realised that to accomplish their
goals, attitudes had to be changed in a broad and deep way. There had to be a
reconstructed attitude toward the return of refugees, the evolution of loyalty
to a unified Bosnia-Herzegovina and a respect for the actions of the OHR and
international governmental organisations. An illustration: during the war in
Kosovo, the OHR and the IMC wished to ensure that the broadcasts within
Bosnia-Herzegovina about that conflict were "balanced," reflecting the
NATO position as well as that of Serbia. Steps were taken to make sure they were.
· NGOs and, to be sure, the outlets themselves, often had different
goals, though not necessarily inconsistent ones. They wished to emphasise skills
in audience-building, which might mean emphasising genres not related to news,
[*18] or recognising the value of sharp points of view in gaining
station-loyalty. Cooperation with the IMC and the OHR, including the direct
carriage of unwanted messages, might undermine listener or viewer loyalty to the
station, or confidence that it was not serving conflicting masters.
· Constitutional strain between the central agencies and the entities
also proved problematic in allowing the media structure in BiH to be
restructured. In this respect, BiH is significant as a post-conflict case study:
the Dayton Accords had designated a federated structure in which Republika
Srpska and the Bosniak-Croat Federation had their own governments and broadcast
stations, with the latter reflecting Bosniak and Bosnian Croat Perspectives. The
tenuous idea of a pan-BiH perspective was not contained in Dayton as such; it
has been imposed subsequently at the insistence of the High Representative. The
demography was of divided populations with the desire to provide a renewed sense
of ethnicity. All of this dictated some elements of a post-Accords media policy.
There would have to be stations associated with the three main groups. There
would have to be an effort to build a multiethnic binding media presence. The
international community would have to deal with the use of media to continue
· Gaining respect for the rule of law while engaging in "top-down"
implementation of rules: An emphasis on the rule of law resulted in the
machinery of licensing, allocation of frequencies, establishing rules for
regulation of content, and training and appointing personnel to administer the
process. Post-conflict issues involved debates among the NGOs and the OHR over
the sensitivity of these rules and their implementation to free speech norms.
Conflicts existed between the entities and the OHR over power of appointment and
scope of authority. In these ways, the imposition of law and the imposition of
the bureaucracy to make law work posed special legitimacy problems.
· In the field of free speech and media law, there existed a dualism in
the leadership of the international community reflecting the differences between
U.S. and European models when developing media structures and regulations. When
the Council of the IMC and other entities considered approaches to media
regulation, a consensus between European approaches based upon article 10 of the
ECHR and U.S. models based upon the First Amendment had to be found. Similarly,
the debate about public service broadcasting took place against the background
of two different PSB rationales.
As with many complex undertakings, much criticism has attached to the
idea that the post-conflict situation in Bosnia-Herzegovina was marked by chaos,
too many actors, mixed objectives, circumstances in which each country wanted
its own signature of representation even if that was inconsistent with a
rational whole. The OHR is also criticised for being too dictatorial, too
directed, and inadequately responsive. Undoubtedly all of these criticisms are
true to some extent. It seems, however, a characteristic of post-conflict
interventions, especially those that are multilateral and involve
intergovernmental as well as non-governmental involvement, that the perils of
crisis management are present.
[*19] Evolving political change in the region, as much as maturing institutions, will alter the role and reaction of the international community to its role in indigenous media development. Political transformations in Croatia and, potentially, Serbia, will have as much influence on post-conflict media intervention in Bosnia as the direct actions of OHR and Sfor. The international community, itself, may alter its perception of how to structure the relationship between the entities and Bosnia-Herzegovina itself and this will affect post-conflict media policy. And in the best of worlds, professionalism, the building of an independent media sector, and the growth of a comprehensive, increasingly autonomous public service broadcasting sector will combine to hasten the likelihood of a mature and stable democratic state.
PART II: THE CASE STUDIES: KOSOVO
P.O. Box, CH-8031