By Maros i Tris eugenie MA in Southeast European Studies School of Slavonic and East European Studies 2002 Introduction Probably every conflict is fought on at least two grounds: the battlefield and the minds of the people. Indeed, the war in Kosovo was not taking place only in the military field. In parallel with the NATO air strikes against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, was taking place the information and propaganda warfare. And while the military outcome between the two combatants -FRY and NATO- was predetermined, the battle could still be won or lost in the field of public opinion. In this battle the two parties employed various means and forms of propaganda to win the sympathies of their audience. The Serbian media as it is expected in a totalitarian regime, were state – controlled and disseminated state propaganda.
Any media outlets that continued to criticize the authorities were months before the air strikes suppressed. On the other hand, the mainstream western media reproduced the NATO “propaganda” and offered their support to the dominant NATO powers engaged in the war. Of course the use of the word propaganda poses a conceptual problem. Propaganda, to most people, is an activity designed to subvert human reason and exploit irrational emotion. In fact, the word assumed a pejorative meaning since the First World War. Before 1914, it meant simply the process of persuasion, the propagation of one’s beliefs among its audience in the context of a political ideology.
... examination of public opinion before the war, propaganda efforts during the war, and the endurance of propaganda in peacetime raises significant questions about the ... information. Invoking the threat of German propaganda, the CPI implemented "voluntary guidelines" for the news media and helped to pass the Espionage ...
After the excesses of atrocity stories in the WWI and furthermore its excessive use in Stalin’s Russia and Hitler’s Germany, the word was entrenched in peoples minds as the means and methods such as deliberate selection, omission of information as well as falsehood employed to produce a desired perception of reality. Throughout the war torn periods of the 20 th century propaganda assumed further significance. According to Philip Knightley, war propaganda “on the war front was used to keep the enemy guessing, on the home front was used to arouse the fighting spirit of the nation, to mobilize public opinion behind the war, to suppress dissent and to steel for the sacrifices needed for victory.” We can observe this kind of propaganda taking place during the First and Second World Wars and its techniques to develop rapidly along with the revolution of the communications. Inevitably, propaganda was also the political response to the fact that the mass media were drawn to the subject of the war throughout the century. War propaganda as a persuasive process combined with the power of the mass media could achieve in the best way what Knightley suggests that is used for. On the other hand, particularly since the Vietnam War and America’s defeat, it became an established belief among the military and the states that uncontrolled media generate anti-war effects.
Therefore states have often taken considerable pains to manipulate the presentation of war. Of course, due to the debasement of the word propaganda, a variety of euphemisms are adopted to characterize the persuasive processes used in the wartime periods such as political education, public relations and more recently media management. What is media management in contemporary wars? The state and the military in wartime attempt to exploit the tremendous capacity of the media to shape the public opinion in order to muster up support and convince about the righteousness of their cause. To rally the peoples behind the cause of war is necessary to tame, control and manipulate the power of the media. To serve this tactical objective several strategies are employed.
... mainstream media... I feel... as a citizen that I am just not getting any information. And all I keep hearing is war, war, war. It ... state mean we are destined as a nation to become a watchdog to the world? These are the questions the US military ... , government, and the mainstream media organizations in their representations need to ask themselves ...
One of the common tactics, used by either side in the war, is to appeal to peoples’ patriotism. States make considerable use of patriotism as a mechanism for disciplining the media, in the sense that criticism of the war can endanger or even harm the nation’s interests and even existence. Usually, any critical or even sceptical view that questions the war’s ends and means is branded as unpatriotic by the government, the military and often by rival media. Consequently, states expect high degree of compliance from their own media during the war. Another way to control the media is by controlling the sources of information. The military and the governments use several ways to restrict what information is presented such as censorship, denial of access to the war zones and to communications equipment, “news management” systems for briefing and “propagandizing” journalists.
Besides, there are powerful incentives that encourage journalists and news organizations to use the official sources. The whole military / governmental “public-relations” system during the war is designed in a way to meet the structural requirements of news production. Additionally, journalists need inexpensive and easy to access sources, precisely what the military / government offers and, finally, the official sources are presumed to be credible in the sense that the journalists report what is the official version of reality and they are not responsible if it is inaccurate. Clearly, the states are very keen on keeping their media under control during the wartime, while in the same time fully exploit their potential, as has happened throughout the 20 th century, to prepare for and justify the war. Michael Parenti describes a pattern of reporting that leads to partial information and as a result to a misrepresentation of the reality. According to Parenti a mode of censorship is what he calls “suppression by omission.” In that case vital details, important information or the whole story are downplayed or even avoided outright.
Another technique of misrepresentation that engages the media in the propagation of disinformation is “the face-value framing”, meaning that the official assertions, true or not, are treated at face value without being questioned or challenged. Further more while journalism is supposed to get both sides of an issue, in fact, rarely in a war all the conflicting parts are accorded equal prominence. In addition, the “unbalanced treatment” may exist even when the media treats both parts equally but the result is still the creation of the false impression. Parenti gives an example saying that: “In Guatemala wars in 1980 s, those who burned villages and those who had them burned were depicted equally involved in bloodletting. While giving the appearance of being objective and neutral, one actually neutralizes the matter and thereby drastically warps it.” Additionally, Parenti supports that the most effective propaganda “relies on framing rather than falsehood.”Framing” is achieved in the way the news are packaged, the amount of exposure, the placement (front page, headline or buried), the tone of presentation, the visual or auditory effects.” One common method of framing, according to Parenti, is to select positive or negative labels in order to “prefigure perceptions of a subject.” Finally, another way to neutralize the reality is by “scanting its content.” The lack of context or detail to a story makes it hard to understand the wider ramifications, the causes, and the effects of what is happening. As it has been mentioned in the beginning, the Kosovo war was also an information and propaganda war fought by the media.
... For the military information and the control of it is seen as a weapon (1). The British media suffered several ... War correspondents were to be escorted by military officials, minders, during all interviews. These often intimidated the interviewee it was claimed. However access ... 1993 John Ajit Singh Gosal, Conflict in the Falklands: Media-Military Relations, War Studies Journal, Vol. 1, No. 2, 1996 3 ...
Accordingly, based to the above framework I would like to identify the elements of propaganda in the coverage of the events by the two protagonists of the conflict, the FRY and the USA. USA media: The Vietnam syndrome In 1991, after the Gulf War, president George Bush declared to the American people: “This is a proud day for America. By God, we have kicked the Vietnam Syndrome once and for all.” It seems that the trauma of that conflict had been healed. It is a shared view in the USA military that the media ‘lost’ the Vietnam War. In fact, the media depended heavily on the official sources at the time. The reporters in Southeast Asia faithfully delivered to their readers the message of the US diplomatic and military sources and it was only after 1968 when high officials in Washington spoke against the war that the coverage of the war grew more and more critical.
... the troops and how they were dressed, military operation, and the death tolls of World War 1. The troops had to carry a ... the military in World War 1, It was outrageous! In our project we talked about the weapons, troops and there uniforms, military operations, ... and the death tolls of the military and civilians in World War 1.
However, the fact that the government had little use for censorship in the Vietnam War created the misperception that the negative media coverage contributed to the US defeat. Since Vietnam, the ‘anti-war’ media myth dominated the military public relations planning and initiated the search for methods to control them. The answer came when the British won the Falklands War. A war fought away from indiscrete eye of the media. The British military controlled the media by limiting the number of the journalists who accompanied the troops, regulating their access to the battlefield and reviewing their news before they were transmitted. It seemed that the answer to the Vietnam Syndrome was given.
This tactic to control the media groups not by forbidding to cover the war but by allowing the war coverage only in the military’s terms was applied and tested in the Granada and Panama interventions of 1983 and 1989 and worked perfectly in the Gulf War. During the Granada invasion the journalists were unable to deliver information for 2 1/2 days after the operation began and the restrictions on the press became an issue on the editorial pages at the time. In the aftermath of the Granada intervention the USA decided to operate a “pool system” where only a limited number of journalists would be allowed to near to battlefield, they would be escorted by officers and make their reports available to everyone. This system of press pool was first used in operation Just Cause in Panama and failed miserably as the members of the pool arrived late to witness the actual combat while the independent reporters were detained to protect the privileges of the pool which could not, in fact, accomplish its mission.
Instead of being taken to the fight the pool received a series of briefings from the US Embassy personnel and when it arrived in Panama the military personnel refused to take the reporters to the combat zone, the media centre was poorly equipped and the reports couldn’t arrive in time. One year later the Operation Desert Storm began in the Persian Gulf. From the beginning the war was a major media event. There was a bombardment of news coverage but the overwhelming majority of what the people read and saw was controlled by the military. There were a lot of complaints by the ‘press pool’ people that their access to the operations was impaired and that the press was subjected to unprecedented censorship. Nevertheless, it was obvious that the military / government were in position to release the information they wanted.
... the buck privates and the effect of the media in the Vietnam War. No military plan even by top strategists in the White ... neglected by the American side. The information was also available in broadcast from Hanoi Radio. In military operations, nothing is more important ... could be well listened to and trusted. So information from the Western media produced rumors that the USA was about to sell ...
This controversy between the media and the military that accompanied the Gulf War led to the first attempt to negotiate and define the rules of coverage of military operations. In May 1992, the Department of Defence and five major media organizations signed an agreement on media access to the military operation zones during wartime. However, the agreement presented certain shortcomings, which allowed the military to limit media access if chooses to do so. Such a right to limit the access to the battlefield can, in fact, ensure which stories can see the light of publicity and which ones not. Besides, the fact that media and military reached an agreement on the coverage of war signifies an improvement of their relations.
Taylor wonders, “what incentive could there be for the military to give up the spoils of the information war?” It seems that during the Gulf War a new more sophisticated strategy for managing the relations with the media was adapted to the waging of the information warfare. The new media management system was now able to inform the media in such a way as to sustain the public support while waging a war away from them. In conclusion catering for the media’s need for news and information, the new system could use the medium for its own purposes. As a result the 1992 agreement that emerged from the Gulf War reflects a media-military relationship quite unprecedented in the sense of cooperation. In addition to limiting battlefield access the Pentagon’s news-management model includes certain techniques concerning the way the news are disseminated, represented and justified to the public. First of all, the use of the televised Pentagon briefings meant that the military didn’t have to depend on the press to send its message but could speak directly via live television to its audience.
As a result in all three operations the military applying the new model of information management and using the televised briefings made it very difficult for any perspective other than the official one to make its way to the American public. During the Granada invasion the Pentagon did not announce that a US plane had bombed a mental hospital and this information was discovered much later. Misleading the news media about military mistakes became a common policy of the Pentagon “news management” executives. Another common characteristic of the operations taken up by the US is the way the war is represented. The media in every case projected a highly sanitized image of the war.
... Political Committee, and the Information and Cultural relations between the many members of NATO. The responsibility that he ... were fearful of the Soviet and U. S. military buildup of nuclear arms. Also as the decline ... it necessary to keep a stock of nuclear war-heads, and to make available to the Supreme ... weaponry, and part of their armament was nuclear war-heads, which were feared by the entire world. ...
While this kind of interventions resulted in civilian casualties the public was assured that the civilian population was safe thanks to the precision of the high-tech weaponry used. According to Taylor, this kind of propaganda that appears as ‘news’ and ‘information’ is the most effective. Finally, these military interventions were justified by projecting a very simplistic perception of the war. All of them were simplified into a battle between the good and the evil. This Manichean ism served to marginalize any critical and more elaborate explanations that do not fit into the black and white scheme of things. Additional to this pattern was a process of the demonization of the other who doesn’t fit the picture of what is right.
Philip Knightley in an article in Guardian argues that the western media follow a rather familiar formula when it comes to prepare for conflict where the demonization of the enemy is essential. The mass media are often willing participants, if not the initiators of such process. Saddam Hussein in Gulf War was portrayed as the new Hitler, a comparison that evokes instantly certain images, while over the Panama invasion the focus was on the demonise personality of the ‘drug trafficker’ Noriega. The same tactics that characterize the new militarism strategy will be employed later in the Yugoslav crisis and the Kosovo war. US media coverage It is an issue of great importance the degree to which the American media became a weapon of war during the Nato intervention in Kosovo. On the part of the US, maintaining the public support for the NATO offensive in Yugoslavia was vital.
The Nato briefings, in the beginning of the bombing campaign revealed that the new media strategy hadn’t been fully employed yet, as the Alliance was expecting a short military operation. However, an information management policy had been in place by the end of the war. In particular, after the first week of the bombardments various specialists and increased recourses from Washington and London were at Nato’s disposal. The ‘news management’ model that had been formed during the last thirty years of military operations was in place to help the Nato war machine. The military put in effect the restrictions that have already been mentioned in the previous chapter. For example, the post-Granada pool system that was much criticized for allowing the military to exercise its control to the media was in effect in the Kosovo war too.
The fact that the reporters were under the control of Nato-run pool system and were facing restrictions not only from the Serbian authorities but from the Alliance too was not mentioned but once in one TV news bulletin. So additionally to the fact that the Kosovo air campaign was extremely hard to cover objectively, only a few journalists had access to ground combat zones and the pilots that conducted the air strikes. The result was as Philip Knightley puts it: “Since they couldn’t go to the war, correspondents gathered at Nato headquarters.” Under these circumstances the majority of the journalists covering the war were captives of the daily briefings of the Alliance’s headquarters and were almost entirely dependent on Nato information. Due to this fact, it is essential to see briefly how the Nato managed the information warfare. The media strategy model used in the Kosovo case reveals many similarities with the one that was applied to the previous USA operations. Firstly, the bombing campaign was presented in a sanitized and euphemistic way.
The civilian casualties were downplayed the weaponry used was constantly represented as ‘precise’ while the military discourse was full of euphemisms. In addition withholding and giving incorrect information was the usual tactic throughout the campaign. Finally, Nato oversimplified the war by using the Manichean tactic to portray one side as good and the other as evil. This was, in general, the prevailing policy followed in Nato’s briefings.
The key question, however, is how the American media reacted to this information management. In order to answer to this question I will examine the coverage of certain essential issues and cases of the Kosovo war. Historical Context In February 1999 in the Institute for Peace, Medline Albright gave her view on the Kosovo conflict. In that account she argues: “Yugoslavia’s collapse and descent into violence began in Kosovo. It was by proclaiming Serbia’s right to supreme authority there that Slobodan Milosevic… began his rise to power.
And one of his first acts as President of Serbia, in 1989, was to strip Kosovo of the autonomy it had enjoyed under the Yugoslav Constitution… For ten years, Kosovo Albanians fought a courageous, non violent campaign to regain the rights they had lost.” Albright’s account is truthful but misses to address to the prior stages of the conflict. It seems as if everything began in 1989, as there is no reference to the prehistory of the ‘ethnic’ conflict between Serbs and Albanians in the Kosovo province. Michael Kaufman in New York Times seems to follow the same pattern. Referring to the crisis, he skips from the Second World War to the 1987 event saying: “The conflict was relatively dormant until Mr.
Milosevic stirred up hostilities in 1989 by revoking the autonomous status that Kosovo had enjoyed in Serbia” Kaufman’s account seems to follow Albright’s pattern and both provide only a partial historical context to Kosovo events when they date its modern history from 1987. Of course the revocation of the autonomy was a crucial event but this resulted out of several years of problematic co-existence between the two ethnic communities in the province and has its origins also in other causes. Besides, in many cases the media instead of engaging in a real attempt to explain the background to the conflict in Kosovo, they offered ethno-historical and religious explanations. Seaton in his essay on ethnic wars and the media says that: “The re-emergence of ethnicity as a way to explain the origins of wars… is new. The problem is that reducing the social and economic realities, and the complex historical causes that underlie and prolong these conflicts to ‘ethnicity’ depoliticizes them.
Such media based interpretations… serve to conceal the impact of recent political decisions” In addition, Halliday referring to the Gulf War argues that the media could have informed the public and allow for democratic debate not by providing ‘news’ to their audience but discussion of issues pertaining to the war: “Thus a range of issues pertaining to the historical background to the war… which could and arguably should, have been discussed at the time were not. This restriction… served not only to oversimplify the historical record but also to present ethical and legal issues in one-sided manner” Accordingly, when the mainstream media fail to contribute to the public debate by providing in-depth critique and analysis then it is easier the complex dynamics of a region to be reduced to a battle of good vs. evil and serve to rally people behind the one or the other cause.
In general, the mainstream US media with certain exceptions didn’t offer an adequate explanation of the longstanding strife between ethnic Albanians and Serbs something that contributed to a Manichean view of things by the American public opinion. The Rambouillet Conference Another case where we can observe elements of what Parenti calls suppression by omission is the coverage of the Rambouillet Agreements. The Rambouillet negotiations took place from February to 18 March 1999 with the intention of providing a solution to the Kosovo crisis without resource to war. Nevertheless, there were key American players who saw the peace process quite differently. At various points during the process, Madeleine Albright and James Rubin made statements confirming the view that they wanted to strengthen the normative case for intervention: “It is now up to Kosovar Albanians to create this black or white situation… to make clear that a Nato implementation force is something they want”, and respectively: “in order to move towards military action, it has to be clear that the Serbs were responsible” Nevertheless, the US media portrayed the Rambouillet Process as the negotiations where a reasonable and just Nato had to deal with an unreasonable enemy to find a solution.
In 22 February the Serbs announced that agree to sign the political section of the Interim Agreement for Peace but in 23 February they rejected the Agreement due to the addition of a paragraph of ambiguous meaning which was interpreted by the Serbs as a final loss of Kosovo. At a later state of the discussions another crucial document was introduced, known as ‘Appendix B’, which permitted to Nato personnel to move throughout FRY without being subjected to any legal process. The Serbian National Assembly rejected this Agreement and proposed a peace plan in 23 March where they said that they are prepared to discuss an international implementation force in Kosovo. Due to the lack of any clear and repeated explanation by the media of the basic terms of the Rambouillet Agreement, it was rather impossible for the public to understand and what exactly was taking place. The ‘Appendix B’ requirements never were given prominence although it was the reason, as the Serbs claimed, to deny signing the Rambouillet Peace Accord. Besides, there was scarce mention or even none in the American national press and major journals of these basic decisions that were made during the negotiations.
CNN rather supported the Nato view of things that the implementation of the ultimatum was due to Serbian failure to join the Kosovo Albanians and sign the terms of the Agreement. In general, the media reports almost universally blamed the failure of the negotiations on the Serbian side. The headline of the New York Times on 24 March 1999 was: “US Negotiators depart frustrated by Milosevic’s hard line” The misrepresentation of the Rambouillet Conference by the media was done by suppressing important facts that would illuminate the reasons of its failure. That way the public opinion was led to believe that only one side was responsible for the failure to achieve peace. The Racak massacre and the mass graves In January 1999, the American head of the OSCE mission in Kosovo announced that Serb soldiers had massacred 45 Kosovar Albanians from the village of Racak.
This story consists a key episode that helped push Nato into war. It played the same role, as the story that Iraqi soldiers were tossing premature Kuwait babies out of the incubators. This story that consisted a definite moment in the campaign to prepare the American public for the need to go to war, two years later proved to be a fabrication. The Racak story had exactly the same effect in the Kosovo campaign. Once the massacre story was reported, pressure for war was intensified and the previously reluctant European allies took a major step towards authorizing the air strikes. According to an article in Washington Post ‘Racak transformed the West Balkan policy as singular events seldom do’.
Indicative of the effect that Racak had is the Bill Clinton’s announcement of Nato’s determination to launch the air strikes against Yugoslavia: .”.. we need to remember what happened in the village of Racak… innocent men, women and children taken from their homes to a gully, forced to kneel in the dirt, sprayed with gunfire, not because of anything they have done, but because of who they were. The simplest way to demonise is the atrocity story. On the other hand, the role of the media is to examine or at least appear to be sceptical about an unverified atrocity story.
At the time, French and German newspapers published articles that were expressing the possibility that this was a slaughter of KLA fighters, converted into a civilian massacre. Cristophe Chatelot wrote that the version given from the Albanian side leaves certain questions unanswered. In contrast, the American media didn’t give serious attention to these doubts. Besides the Finnish experts appointed to investigate could not establish that the victims were civilians, whether they were from Racak and where they had been killed. The point is that the Racak story in fact still remains controversial and it is important to underscore that the US media show little interest in this controversy.
This media attitude is what Parenti characterizes as face value framing or transmission and Racak was reported by the American media without any scepticism. According to Parenti, the media to avoid misinformation should give “a range of information and views that might allow people to form opinions contrary to ones that permeate their news reports” Another case where we can observe an uncritical repetition of ‘facts’ by the American media is the one that concerns the number of victims in Kosovo. Another justification given by Nato for its intervention in Kosovo was that a systematic genocide was taking place enumerating hundreds of thousands victims. William Cohen the US Defence secretary, referring to Kosovo said: “The horror in Kosovo has not yet been fully told. When it is, people all over the world will understand why it was that America believed it had to take action.” Such statement gives the impression that an ethnic war of the type of 1940 was taking place.
In April 1999, State Department Ambassador stated that up to 500. 000 Kosovo Albanians were missing and feared dead. Later David Suffer, the US envoy for war crimes issues, will put the figure to 225. 000 ethnic Albanian men. In mid-May, the American Secretary of Defence, William Cohen, stated that 100. 000 military aged men were vanished and may be killed by the Serbs.
The widely varying but terrible figures given by the official sources were reported by the mass media without being challenged. In 4 April New York Times wrote: “We may have fifty Serbrenica”, which means about 350. 000 victims. Following the same pattern, ABC reported in 18 April that dozens of millions of young men might have been executed. Finally, a day or two before the end of the bombing, the British Foreign Office Minister, Geoff Hoon, said that “at least 10. 000 Albanian civilians were killed.” There was given no explanation how they had arrived to a new, significantly reduced number of victims.
Nevertheless, the media echoed Foreign Office’s assertions. In general, there were daily publications and reports on massive killings and unconfirmed references to mass graves through out the bombings that were presented as established facts. Only in New York Times there was nearly one article a day that made allegations about mass graves in Kosovo. However, when it came to hard evidence nothing of this could be proved. It seemed that when Nato entered Kosovo sufficient mass graves failed to materialize. According to Paul Risley, The Hague’s Tribunal press spokesman the final number of bodies will be less than 10.
000 and probably more accurately determined as between two and three thousand. Audrey Gil an who was one of the reporters that tried to find the evidence for mass atrocities in Kosovo writes: “Watching the television images and listening to the newscasters thunder about further reports of Serb massacres and of genocide, I feel uneasy about saying that they have very little to go on… The story being at home is different from the one appeared to be happening on the ground. The American media, as many Western media, seems to have followed Nato view on the issue. Nato’s hyperbole may be attributed to the fact that they wanted to shore up public support for the bombing. But the media should question the claims of the officialdom and not to editorialize them, this is the alternative to the face value transmission.
The danger of such tactic, as Parenti puts it, is that the repeated untruths from major national mediums soon “take life of their own, to be passed on with little conscious awareness… But along with the transformation of falsehood to unconscious ‘fact’, there are still plenty of plain old deliberate lies. Genocide and Holocaust While journalism is supposed to cover a story in all its complexity, propaganda simplifies issues as it tries to mobilize action. One of the most common ways, through the centuries, to stir up consent in a war was the demonization of the enemy.
Reducing the number of parties in a conflict into two and portray one side as good and the other as evil consists a major oversimplification of war. A method of such a representation is what Parenti calls labelling. This is the selection of labels and other vocabulary that has the potential to convey positive or negative images. The use of labels to create the desired impression, usually, substitutes for supportive information.
In our days, one of the most effective ways to demonise the other is to somehow link them with the Nazi experience. In the case of Kosovo, we can observe such a process, taking place through the language used to describe the abuse, killing and exodus from the region of the Albanians. ‘Holocaust’, ‘genocide’, ‘concentration camps’, ‘mass graves’ and ‘ethnic cleansing’ was the often-mentioned phraseology in the daily reportage of the US media. In April 1999 an article in Los Angeles Times had the title, ‘Images of Kosovo colour Holocaust Remembrance’.
In the same way, Warren Christopher in Washington Post is writing: “We -Nato and USA- must prevail in Kosovo. We must do so unambiguously, using whatever force is necessary… the genocidal conduct of Slobodan Milosevic and his thugs is much more than an assault in a single ethnic minority.” In general, during the Kosovo crisis the Serbs were portrayed as the Nazis engaged in genocide and words like “Auschwitz like furnace” and ‘Holocaust’, ‘genocide’ was used repeatedly. For example, the word ‘genocide’, ascribed to the Serbs, was found in 85 different articles in New York Times throughout the year 1999. In addition, the majority of the commentators used the words without getting to specifics such as what is the meaning of ‘genocidal behaviour’ or give facts.
This language and graphic metaphors were sufficient to draw a parallel with the atrocities committed in the 40 s and evoke not only a large scale of deaths but also attribute a malign intention to those that were supposed to have committed the crimes. According to Susan Moeller, the imagery that such wording arouses is for the Americans “the extreme benchmark of atrocity”, and it is often employed by the American journalists to capture their attention. The bombing campaign While the media focused on the Serb atrocities intensively, the Nato air strikes received a rather euphemistic coverage. There were, of course reporters and journalists that questioned the air campaign from the beginning but, in general, and especially in the mainstream media, notions and euphemisms like ‘collateral damage’, ‘humanitarian war’, went unchallenged. There were not questions concerning the morality or legality of the bombing in Kosovo and the rest of Yugoslavia, the selected targets, and the type of weaponry used. Of course, it was reasonable that the reporters would put questions like how long the Alliance will continue bombing or if ground forces will be introduced, but on the other hand, the questions shouldn’t be confined only to the mere technicalities of the military campaign.
It seems that the criticism and the coverage that the both sides -the Serbian and the US- did not follow the same pattern. Journalism is supposed to balance the competing stories. It is the simple rule of getting “both sides.” The American media in their majority did not follow this rule. For example, when the Nato missiles hit the Drag isa Music hospital and four people were killed, none of the US news channels decide to use the available footage from the Associated Press Television News. In the same manner, the New York Times printed a small photograph on page 13 where a larger one featured with the caption “Evidence of atrocities” and “Corroboration of a Videotape of a massacre.” This kind of framing that wants to draw the attention from the Nato attacks on the Belgrade hospital is indicative of false balancing. Another case of false balancing is giving a analysis of the sources that the two major US channels, ABC and PBS, used in their evening news programmes, Nightline and NewsHour during the two first weeks of the air strikes.
The highest percentage of the guests was political and military officials while the appearance of any critics of the bombardment was scant. Moreover, the academic experts made only 2 percent of sources and no expert source was interviewed live on Nightline. Not giving to all sides an equal share to express their views comes to unbalanced treatment. In the ABC and PBS case, the exclusion of sources that call into question the official version of the reality, apparently, created a false image of the events. The Serbian media The post war period The case with the Serbian media is quite different.
While in the case of the USA media, the word ‘propaganda’ was used to describe methods of misrepresentation in order to persuade their audience or create the desired images; in the case of the Serbian media propaganda was the result of oppression. For a totalitarian regime that depends on coercion, free flow of information and ideas is incompatible with the ability to sustain power. So while the US media applied methods of persuasion to create consensus, the Serbian media were coerced to disseminate state propaganda. Compare to the other communist countries, the Yugoslav media enjoyed more freedom and were more varied and un constraint. In the post 1974 era, the period of the recognition of the ‘constitutive nations’ of the federation did not leave the media unaffected. They were also decentralized and each of the Republics and the autonomous provinces had its own broadcasting system and its own press.
The League of Communists of Yugoslavia controlled the media only indirectly and the YET (Yugoslav Radio-Television) had become a mere coordinator of the Republics broadcasting organisations. Especially, in the post Tito period the media became engaged in the ethnicization’ and ‘nationalization’ process, usually by promoting and appealing to national sentiments. These appeals became more explicit in the late 80 s when the nationalist discourse became a common feature of media coverage. In general, the media, at that time were manipulated to enhance the republican elites and meanwhile repressive legislation was used to silence any critics against the republican authorities.
In Serbia, the League of Communists policy was the promotion and propagation of nationalism and used their power to control the media outlets by several means of pressure and by lining up journalists and media workers willing to offer their services for that cause. As a result the Serbian media became central in the process of defining the Serbian nation and convincing their audiences for the dangers the ‘Serbian entity’ was facing. Throughout the 80 s and, in particular, since the late 1987, the Serbian State and Church controlled media were engaged in a campaign to present Serbs as a community under threat by focusing on specific interpretations of the past and trying to stress the ‘victimization’, ‘the suffering’, ‘the genocide’, ‘the dangers’ that the Serbs nation was subjected to. These nationalistic interpretations of the history were characteristic of a process of demonising the selected ‘enemies’.
The ‘Albanization’ of Kosovo was central in the campaign to define the ‘enemy’ and the’ threat’. The Serbian mass media played a major role in promoting this nationalistic movement by stigmatizing and demonising the Albanians. The Politika a newspaper group in Belgrade set the tone of the official media policy. Those who dared to criticize Politika’s nationalistic tactics was purged and sacked, something that proves the strategic importance to the government at the time. Politika’s example was followed by the Serbian Radio-Television (RTS), as well as by other media.
The propaganda model was to portray Albanians as primitive, illiterate and criminals while, in the same time, ‘rumours’ regarding Kosovo were treated as ‘news’ and were represented as ‘facts’. For example, the rumour of rapes of Serbian women was vastly exploited by the mass media. The allegations of rapes of Serbian women perpetrated by Albanians were reported by the media as ‘genocide’ and were interpreted as attack against the Serbian nation. The language used was the language of demagogy and prejudice, full of stereotypes allegations, accusations that were articulated in an aggressive and populist tone.
The Serbs were the ‘celestial people’ or the ‘freedom fighters’ that ‘guarding’ and ‘defending their native soil’ while the Albanians were the ‘terrorists-separatists’, ‘the Muslim’ enemy. Methods of repression Since 1989 a federal law was enacted to allow the foundation of private companies, including media ones. While manipulation and the suppression of free speech were among the pillars of Slobodan Milosevic’s regime, since he came to power in the late 80 s, his government had never managed to take full control of the electronic and print media. The ones founded by the local assemblies were opposed to the central government especially after 1996-1997 when the opposition parties won the municipal elections. Since 1998, the Milosevic regime became engaged in an attempt to control the any opposing media outlets using several measures of repression.
In the first place, the Serbian government used the Nato threats related to its official policy towards Kosovo as an occasion to impose the “Decree on special measures in the circumstances warranted by Nato threats or armed attacks.” Since then the government intensified its attack against the independent media that tried to provide a more objective picture of the Kosovo conflict. The Decree lasted only one week, but after October 13, when Milosevic reached an agreement on Kosovo with the US Ambassador, the Law on Public Information replaced the Decree. This Law stands in total contravention of the Serbian Constitution that explicitly prohibits censorship as well as of many Serbian laws and international standards. The Law imposed a kind of preventive censorship of all the media, banned the rebroadcasting of foreign programmes and levied heavy fine for the media that were supposed to have offended the law. If the usually exuberant fees were not paid then the result was closure and seizure of all the assets. Prior to the adoption of the Law three leading independent newspapers, Nasa Bora, Devni Telegraf and Dan as, had already been banned.
After the law was implemented the owner and editor of Devni Telegraf and the magazine Europljanin was prosecuted and was sentenced in to five months imprisonment. On other problem that the independent media were facing in FRY is that often they were unable to disseminate their message beyond the major cities. As a result many of the FRY citizens were restricted to viewing RTS the official mouthpiece of the government and could not receive unbiased information. In addition to these problems, several methods of intimidation were adopted against the independent media. The police staged raids on at least three newspapers and several radio stations confiscated their equipment and shut them down. Some editors were also accused as ‘traitors and collaborators’ and threatened to be arrested by Vojislav Seselj, president of the ultra-nationalist party and Deputy Prime Minister.
State of War The situation aggravated during the war. With the beginning of the Nato air strikes the Public Information Law was fortified by war decrees. However, censorship was not imposed in a form of decree. Instead, the Serbian Information Ministry issued “Instructions for the operation of news agencies and media outlets in the circumstances of the imminent threat of war.” The “Instructions” was too vague and, in fact, gave the Ministry unlimited power to intervene in the medias contents. According to one of the provisions every journalist “must be at service of the states current interests and must participate in the system of reporting and information.” It is obvious, from the above provision as well as several others, that the work of the journalists is considered as part of the military activity.
In addition, the editors in -chief of all the media had to attend daily briefings with officials and any reports on casualties among the army and the police were “strictly prohibited.” A part of the Ministry’s “Instructions” is devoted to the vocabulary the media are allowed to use in their coverage of the war. The Nato forces are to be referred to as “the aggressor”, the KLA as “a gang”, “the terrorists” or “the criminals” while “army and police personnel are fighters for the freedom of the country.” Besides several events convinced the journalists and editors in Yugoslavia to keep a low profile during the extreme situations in the wartime. The first was the closure of the B 92 radio station in Belgrade one of the most influential independent media outlets. On 2 April, it was taken over by a new editorial team and the journalists and the staff refused to work with the new management. However, the most shocking and terrifying event that definitely intimidated the independent journalists was the assassination of Slav ko Curuvija, the owner and editor of the Devni Telegraf. Five days before, Curuvija was accused by the pro-regime daily Politika ekspres as ‘national traitor’.
Arresting journalists was another technique of intimidation. Further more, other forms of repression were applied by the Milosevic regime. The foreign journalists were under strict control and guidance by the authorities and were also excluded from Kosovo. In the same time several independent media journalists were drafted into military service while their colleagues in the regime’s media were rarely drafted because “they served their country through their journalism.” Finally, two more restrictive measures were put in effect during the bombardments. There was a compulsory lease of frequencies and broadcasting equipment on behalf of the states broadcasters and the independent electronic media had also to broadcast RTS news bulletins. Both of these measures were the result of Nato’s targeting the state’s television transmitters as well as the RTS studios.
In general, the regime’s policy was to close down all stations that did not agree to compromise with and remained on a strong independent course of reporting. Some stations decided to close down themselves and the rest had to come somehow to terms with the new policy and impose some kind of self- censorship so as to avoid any legal or para-legal prosecution and to preserve their media outlets. By and large, there was a uniformity and dominant common tone in the coverage of the Kosovo crisis by the Serbian media. This was the result of the strict state control that imposed a more or less clear framework for the media operation.
The media in Serbia, the state run ones and the independent, disseminated the regime’s propaganda. Unlike the Serbian media, the US ones enjoyed the freedom of democratic regime. However, in many cases that were described, already, seemed to go along with the Nato assertions, did not appear critical enough and treated the crisis in an unbalanced way. It is clear that the Kosovo war was fought in the media arena too, and both sides tried to persuade their audiences for the righteousness of their cause by using propaganda methods. Bibliography Akerman Seth and Naureckas Jim, ‘Following Washinghton ‘s Script: The United States Media and Kosovo’, in Philip Hammond and Edward S Herman, Degraded capability: the media and the Kosovo crisis, Pluto Press, London, 2000 Akerman Seth, What reporters knew about Kosovo talks but didn’t talk, 2 June 1999 available at [ //www. Fair.
org/ free-releases / kosovo -talks. html] Balkan Neighbours Project, The Serbian Press in the first month of the Nato war against Yugoslavia, March-April 1999, available at [ web > Carruthers L. Susan, The media at war, Communication and conflict in the twentieth century, New York, 2000 Chomsky Noam, Kosovo Peace Accord in Goff Peter, The Kosovo News and Propaganda War, International Press Institute, 1999 Cristophe Chachelot, Les m orts de Racak ont-ils vraiment ‘et’e massacre ” es froidement? , Le Monde, 21 January 1999 Fair and Accuracy in Reporting, Slanted sources in NewsHour and Nightline coverage in Kosovo, available at [ web > Gell man Barton, The Path to the crisis: How United States and Its allies went to war Washington Post, 18 April 1999 Gillan Audrey, The propaganda war, Guardian, 21 August 2000 Ha Julie, Images of Kosovo colour Holocaust remembrance, Los Angeles Times, 14 April 1999 Halim i Serge and Vidal Dominique, M’edias et d’esinformation, Le Monde Diplomat ique, March 2000 Halliday Fred, ‘Manipulation and limits: Media coverage of the Gulf War, 1990-91’ in Allen Tim and Seaton Jean, The media of conflict, London and New York, 1999 Hammond Philip, Reporting Kosovo: Journalism vs Propaganda, July 1999, available at [ //www. Zoran.
net / afp /text / submitted /reportingkosovojournalismvs. htm] Hammond Philip, The Unasked questions, The London Times, 9 April 1999 Herman S. Edward and Peterson David, ‘CNN selling Nato’s war Globally, in Philip Hammond and Edward S Herman, Degraded capability: the media and the Kosovo crisis, Pluto Press, London, 2000 Human Rights Watch, Curtailing Political Dissent: The suppression of the independent journalism available at [ web > Hume Mick, Nazifying the Serbs, from Bosnia to Kosovo in Philip Hammond and Edward S Herman, Degraded capability: the media and the Kosovo crisis, Pluto Press, London, 2000 Kemble Richard, ‘New militarism and the manufacture of warfare’ in Philip Hammond and Edward S Herman, Degraded capability: the media and the Kosovo crisis, Pluto Press, London Kirtle y Jane, ‘Enough is enough’, Media Journal Studies, vol. 15/1, Summer 2001 Knightley Philip, Fighting Dirty, Guardian, 4 October 2001 Knightley Philip, The disinformation campaign, Guardian, 4 October 2001 Knightley Philip, The first casualty, Prion Books, 1975 Media Advisory: Doubts on a massacre: Media ignore questions about incident that sparked Kosovo war. 1 February 2001 available at [ web > Merlin Jonathan, Debating war and peace, Media coverage of U. S intervention in the post- Vietnam era, Princeton University Press, Princeton-New Jersey, 1999 Michael Kaufman, ‘The war in Kosovo’, New York Times, 4 April 1999 Moeller D.
Susan, ‘Covering War: Getting graphic about genocide’, in Moeller D. Susan, Compassion fatigue, How the media sell disease, famine, war and death, Routledge, New York and London, 1999 OSCE Yearbook, Current situation of Media in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Report to the Permanent Council, 27 August 1998 Parenti Michael, ‘Methods of misrepresentation’ in Parenti Michael, Invention of reality, Politics and the mass media, St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1993 Parenti Michael, To kill a nation, the attack on Yugoslavia, Verso, 2001 Pascale Com belles-Siegel, The troubled path to the Pentagon’s rules on Media Access to the battlefield: Granada to today, 15 May 1996, p. 7 available at [ //www. Carlisle.
Army. mil / us assi /ssi pubs / pubs 96/medaacss / medaacss . pdf] Philip Hammond and Edward S. Herman, ‘First casualty and beyond’, in Philip Hammond and Edward S Herman, Degraded capability: the media and the Kosovo crisis, Pluto Press, London, 2000 Rena aut Girard, Racak que est-ce s’ est pass’e? , Le Figaro, 21 January 1999 Ross en Miles, ‘ Introduction ‘, in Goff Peter, The Kosovo News and Propaganda War, International Press Institute, 1999 Sandman M. Peter, Rubin M. David, Sachs man B.
David, Media, An introductory analysis of American mass communications, Prentice-Hall inc, New Jersey, 1972 Schechter Danny, Covering Violence: How should media handle conflict? , July 2001 available at [ web > Seaton Jean, ‘The new ‘ethnic’ wars and the media’ in Allen Tim and Seaton Jean, The media of conflict, London and New York, 1999 Share E. Jacqueline, War, censorship and the First Amendment, Media Journal Studies, vol. 15/1, Summer 2001 Soco Mir jana and Wood ger William, ‘The military and the media’, in Philip Hammond and Edward S Herman, Degraded capability: the media and the Kosovo crisis, Pluto Press, London, 2000 So fos A. Spyro’s, ‘Culture, media and the Politics of disintegration and ethnic division in Former Yugoslavia’, in Allen Tim and Seaton Jean, The media of conflict, London and New York, 1999 Sre mac S. Danielle, War of Words, Washinghton tackles the Yugoslav crisis, Westport, Conn: Praeger, 1999 Steele Jonathan, Motivated to believe the worst, Guardian, 18 August 2000 Taylor M.
Philip, War and the media, Propaganda and persuasion in the Gulf war, Manchester University Press, Manchester and New York, 1992 The independent international commission on Kosovo, The Kosovo report, Conflict, international response, lessons learned, Oxford University Press, 2000 Thompson Mark, Forging war, The media in Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, , International Centre against Censorship, London, 1994 Warren Christopher, Whatever it takes, Washington Post, 4 April 1999 Zivkovic Ivana and Popov ic Lidia, Report on the media in FRY, OSCE Yearbook, 1999.