Articles about media in 1998 and 1999

Transformation of national media

April 1998.

Deadline for re-structure of television of Bosnia and Herzegovina which International community gave to represents from Bosnian and Croatian side, has passed and television is not re-structured. Radio-television of Bosnia and Herzegovina, whose status stayed undefined after the war, has to be re-structured into radio-television which would work on federal level, while Serb radio-television can keep status as it has. The International community decided to reorganize two national networks into a system of two public radio-televisions, one on federal level, and another on level of Republika Srpska, which would be out of direct influence of government and governmental parties. These media changes have to be fulfilled by summer this year, so elections in september can be organized in democratic conditions.

New laws are coming up for the media. We hope we will be able to report about that. In case people who read this newsletter are very interested in this issue, please let us know, in case there is good response we might work a little harder on that particular subject.

stop the cover up!

vrijheid zijn veel woorden Change of rules for media treatment of elections in September

May 1998

The temporary election comity has passed new laws regarding the elections coming this September. The most important decision forbids paid political advertisement through all electronic media. Situation is somewhat better with written media, they will be able to publish political advertisements, but only if everyone would be treated equally. Another change is about registration of parties as alliances, aside from previous coalition way of organizing, and also there is a possibility of making rules and regulations regarding the election of Presidency members, which is demanded by opposition parties.

Conflict of OSCE and local media

June 1998,

OSCE's decission to forbid commercial political advertising in approaching pre - election campaign through commercial media programs and to replace it with free advertising directed by International Community, caued tempestious reactions of local media who are against this decission. Realization of this decission will bring media, who practically live from marketing, in unpleasant situation - it is absurd to request free advertising in the most expensive terms. Beside this, OSCE decided that International Community has the right to take away frequency and work permit if any media refuses to broadcast free advertisments.
The worst thing is that there is nothing illegal in their work. BH politicians approved it with their signatures in Dayton and Sintra, but without knowledge and approval of media.
There is a question about International Community's aim for coming to BiH - to help in democratization of society and building peacefull process or to build their own dictator system in this area.
Still, there is a fact that if OSCE decides to forbid work of some media, BiH media will not accept that situation easily

A local crime boss in editorial office of magazine BH DANI

June 1998

As it is said in the title, local boss who can be found in other texts here and whose name is not important, with few friends decided to visit editorial office of "independent" magazine BH DANI, and with that "act" shows he does not like their writing. He also threatened the magazine editor with a gun. It was a plastic gun, but the editor did not know that. It is not necessary to write about reactions of local "independent" public about this event. Yes, it is reasonable. It is reasonable to expect such rections on such acts.
It is miserable that editor of BH DANI makes a picture of attack on all local independent media from all that. The same editor gave that boos space in the magazine to speak about his life and similar nonsenses to the most intimate details. Everything on count of their friendship. And nothing disturbed anyone. Now, when the friendship is over and old friends quarrel (and stronger wins), it is about attack on independent media, freedom of speech... And even more reasonable is the end of that farse when court decided to confiscate four plastic water guns and to charge the boss and his pals each 60 DM fine. Yes, deterrent. If BiH administration of justice continues to work that way you can expect hundreds of stories like this next time.

Replacements of media editors in RS

August 1998

As a part of preparing media for the September elections, the government of RS has made a decision to replace several editors in RS media, whose actions were not very “democratic” lately. And it is all in order to get rid of them because of personal interest as well as interest or an ultimatum of the International Community.
Because of breaking the law on public informing, those people will no longer have an opportunity to make stupidities where they used to. Their replacement is essential for “fair and democratic” media treatment during the elections.
But it does not mean that representatives of SDS and Serb Radical Party will agree with this, because they call the current government fascistic, anti-Serb and so on. It probably has something to do with the fact that most of the replaced people were members of these two parties. Who knows? “Democracy” is doing its work.

Media freedom in Bosnia

October 1998

" Freedom House", American agency for media investigations, published their results for this year. B&H had the honour to be on the list. It is a list of countries with no media freedom, of course.
But, it it's any comfort, we are not the worst. B&H is between Croatia ( better than us) and Yugoslavia (worse than us). And we are there with the rest of democratic and free countries of the world - bruneji, Dzibuti, Cad, Cambodia, Zimbabwe, Ivory Coast...It seems that we managed to become a part of the civilized world - as we have been told these last years.
Also, freedom of information seems to be very bad, because of repressions and attacks on local journalists during last year. To complete, the worst scored was the relation of daily politics and media and informing. Still, maybe the results are not so bad. Who knows what would happen if the Americans could understand the situation here. Then the score would be even worse.
Better luck next time.

Bosniak Television- flight over a cuckoo identity.
April 1999

Sarajevo, and Bosnia also, has got another electronic media. This time it's radio and a television. Bosniak.
Bosniak Radio Television (BRT) is the product of loud aspirations of the leading Bosniak ideologists. Judging from their claims it is impossible to preserve one's own identity unique and real, unless there are institutions, possibilities and circumstances for it. BRT is one of the institutions.
Let's say they're right.
Indeed, there is a possibility of vanishing of Bosniaks and Bosnian people in general, because of the interests of their neighbouring countries. But if that were the case, then a media like that should be dealing with what is Bosniak . Possibilities for realization of the idea are then the biggest.
But even with a glance at the program review made by BRT (not talking about the program itself for now) the domination of words like "Turk", "Arabic" is obvious... and it's all in the description of the offered. The television broadcasts Turkish music, films, programs...instead of the Bosniak (as it should, judging from the name). Is that the identity that has been talked about. Does that mean that the Bosniak identity is actually Turkish or...
And does that identity really exist. This media ideologists could just the same broadcast Serb and Croat programs that they're fighting against, the effect would be the same, because the Bosniak for which they're fighting is nowhere to be found.
Approach such as this one is a catch of the problems in this area. Identity crisis of a nation does not happen because the others are against it but because of the incompetence of that nation/its ideologists to preserve/build their existence. Finding excuse in blaming neighbors for problems is nothing more than an evidence of their own inability in finding the solution to the problem.
If the current conception of BRT is not a product of a certain mistake, than the only option remaining is to change the name (to another Radio Television) or the country in which they broadcast.
There is hardly a third option.

The End of Channel "S" Broadcasting
May 1999

The following states that there's no fooling around with Westendorp and those like him. Pale's channel "S" is currently put out of work. The program was gone just a few moments after the show whose purpose was to explain the truth about massacres which happened in Sarajevo during the war.
It seems that the explanations weren't peaceful enough.
Explanation for the end of the program came from the Independent Commission for Media. According to them, channel "S" and others like it will stay without the work permit and a possibility to broadcast if they continue to joke with the near past.
If the international officials were as effective earlier, when they were more needed, there would have been more people alive and less towns and villages ruined.
This way, we have just an empty freedom and a satisfaction because thongs are not as bad as they could be. At the same time, the Commission is threatening to close down BRT (Bosniak Radio Television) of which we wrote the last time, and it also sent a warning to several other media (including the national BHT).

Media Freedom in BIH?
Juni 1999

During the last session of the European Council in Strasbourg, there were many harsh debates about whether or not Bosnia and Herzegovina should be accepted in this institution. If we were to believe Bosnian representatives, there were no obstacles for that. Human rights, media freedom and everything else that is unreal in Bosnian reality, has been in a high level for a long time. If we are to believe those who say so.
But, judging from the reality, the truth is not what the government would like us to believe.
This time, Zenica sheriff, Ferid Alic, got the public attention through his attacks on journalists. He is one of those whose political career is not what he would like it to be. Many protests of Zenica war invalids testify this, as well as the inability of refugees to go back to their Zenica homes and number of letters to OHR concerning the sheriff and the situation...
So what's the problem?
The problem is that some Zenica journalists were brave enough to reveal just a part of the truth about the sheriff. And in his "own " television! What a nerve.
The journalists of the independent Zenica television dared to announce the documents by which the International Community acuses Zenica chief for problems happening in the town, and for the most bad things that have little to do with human rights and similar references.
As it usually happens around here, the journalists were supposed to be fired. Because, as Alic put it, they 'create the wrong image of the town they live in". You can't speak against Alic in television and town in which he is the chief. It makes a "bad" image.
And then it all came out.
Westendorp's office, OHR, is very eager to solve this problem the way things are not usually solved here - by replacing the sheriff. If the story will really end that way remains to be seen.
Still, the case of Dzevad Mlaco is indicative. He was the chief of Bugojno that Westendorp replaced in the same way, for more or less the same reasons as in Alic's case. And what happened. Instead of putting Mlaco in the past, retirement or prison, SDA gave him a seat in the state's Parliament.
We'll see if Alic's episode will end in the same manner.
A week or two after Zenica events, there was a seminar in Tuzla whose aim was to find an answer to the question of who and how pressures independent Bosnian media. The organizor, Democratic Alternative Forum, gathered the representatives of BH media and some of the international experts in the area.
Naturally, the result is quite clear.
It's clear to everyone who and how is disturbing the work of media around here. And it has been clearly named. The government, of course. Also the International Community that, thanks to the donations for the media tries to create the truth as they like it. Without realizing the essence of the truth. And eventually, the media themselves, who, running after the money, forget their professional dignity, as one of the participants pointed out.
But one more important thing remained unanswered and that is how and is it possible to overcome such a situation.
And the situation is really bad, if not disasterous.
At the moment, editors if the two strongest and mostly exposed BH political magazines - Slobodna Bosna and BH Dani, are on parole and a direct threat of going to prison. There are several other process' going on against Senad Avdic, the editor of Slobodna Bosna and they will allow him free stay in one of the Sarajevo prisons, if the result turns out to be negative for him. This is the result of the clash begun several months ago by Alija Izetbegovic who likes to compare Bosnian media with prostitutes. The comparation is unclear, but it is very clear what he thinks of them. And the aim is quite clear too - to get rid of those who are constantly pointing out to the government's bad actions. And that's their only guilt. But how far is it possible to go on working in such a manner?
There are many other reporters accused by the government and it's satellites. It gets worse day by day, the pressure on journalists is growing but the government is acting as nothing's happening.
And they want to make it to the Council of Europe.
Well, they won't make it.

Arrestings of journalists September 1999

BH government and the police with it have nothing better to do so they keep arresting people. Journalists, for example. Especially those from the black list of the state.
Before leaving B&H, Carlos Westendorp made a law which forbids arrestings and trials of journalists, which was happening very often in this country. But, who cares about Westendorp and his laws.

About a month ago the police brought in Senad Avdic by force, editor of "Slobodna Bosna". To court, for slander. Dispite the fact that the possibility of trial on that ground has been withdrawn from the law.
And than again.
In the middle of September, eager policemen came to the door of BH Dani office, with a warrant to bring in Senad, this time Pecanin, editor of the magazine. To court, for slander, of course.
It's not hard to guess why the power is so eager to arrest this editorial duo. The question is how much longer is this going to continue.
Especially keeping in mind the last statements from Alija Izetbegovic which state the character and the intention of local power. Anyway, he told his close media that "you arrest journalists and they immediatelly call upon their immunity. Without the courage to stand up for what they wrote. And where is the journalism ethics in that..." Izetbegovic is good. It is the same old man who last year, when Sejfudin Tokic from SDP chased him through these courts for slander, used his right for a diplomatic immunity. Of course he never showed up for the trial.Without the courage to stand up for what he said.
So much about the justice which is "equal for all".

Media in Bosnia and Herzegovina at the end of the century
November 1999

The bad position of the independent media in Bosnia and Herzegovina will continue for as long as those who are in state positions continue to be there. Thanks to them, no piece of news about assassinations and attacks on journalists is surprising.
The last time we just mentioned...
At the end of October, the assassination of Zejlko Kopanja, editor of the local Independent newspaper, took place in Banja Luka. A month later Kopanja is recovering from heavy injuries. Nevertheless, the bomb planted under his car did not change the conception of his "Independent newspaper". Because, if it had, "these two legs would have been gone for nothing" said Kopanja for the Banja Luka "Reporter".
Many people are connecting this attack with the series of articles published by Independent newspaper, concerning crimes comitted by RS Army members and others like them during the war.
Kopanja accepts this to partially true. He says that it could be the fear of those who could be discovered. If we are to trust the inertia following all police actions in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the culprits will not be found. Or at least, not easily. The fact that the car is being examined at the British Scotland Yard proves that the local police force is uncapable of performing any kind of anti-terrorist action, says Kopanja.
Judging from their work, Kopanja is not far from the truth.
Independent newspapers are still in kiosks.
At the beginning of November there was a round table with a theme "Attacks on Media: Who's next?"
Representatives of the independent media on one side and the representatives of the current government on the other were supposed to take part in this discussion. Since the gentlemen from the government did not come, Zlatko Dizdarevic, editor of Sarajevo "Svijet", concluded that any future discussion would be the discussion of the deaf. Realistic discussion brought a pesimistc answer - "We are all the next. It's going to get worse."
"The absurd thing is that the journalists have taken over the investigation of recent crimes, and according to that they've taken over the role of the state."- said Senka Nozica, a lawyer. And in return, the state is attacking and judging them. When Sarajevo "BH Dani" published the files about crimes comitted against the non-Bosniak population in Sarajevo during the war, the government called them traitors and told them that they will lose 200-300 million dollars of international help because of the file. Should they accuse the media or themselves since those crimes were in direct interest of that government. Of course, it would be crazy to expect them to accuse themselves. Unfortunately.
Banja Luka magazine Reporter is dealing with a different problem. According to one of the editors, Reporter was selling 200% of its impression in FR Yugoslavia. After Milosevic's regime found this magazine dangerous, it was placed on the Yugoslav border's black list. They say that the effect of this on Reporter's economic situation is bad. We should hope that the Reporter will have enough readers in other "free" Balkan countries so it could save its economic and general survival.
If anyone remembers (if not, you can find it in POO web, media, april 1999) at the beginning of the year I wrote about BRT (Bosniak Radio-television) that was founded at the time, and my doubts about its existence and identity. Eventually, I concluded that it had only two solutions- to stop working or, instead of Bosniak, they should take the name of a Turkish, Arab or Iranian television. I doubt that the leadership of this TV read what I wrote, but any way, eight months since the beginning of the broadcasting (with a small pause, when the international media commission banned the broadcasting because the TV did not have valid documents for that) BRT no longer exists in the same form. The end. Conflicts of the hardline religious and not so hardline marketing fraction, lead to the end of the program along with a partial scandal for the audience. The result is a new media- RTV Alfa, and a new part of BRT, but its form is still unknown.
But that seems to be the least problem, keeping in mind others (more important ones). According to Slobodna Bosna articles, BRT spent 8 million dollars in 8 months. The results were not as expected.
Whatever, 8 months later we have two circus' instead of one... Until new division.
Looks like another media empire with national name is about to die - Croat television EROTEL from Mostar. If it doesn't die it will live in a more acceptable form. Independent media comission forbade the work of this TV station, well-known for its frequently extreme programs. This is something that EROTEL doesn't care much about. It is still broadcasting and talking about everlasting bad position of Croats in BiH. This bad position is (according to EROTEL) caused by other two people and the independent media comission. How long will this go on is probably up to the OHR and independent media comission tolerance. SFOR refused to comment on possible actions in this case, saying that they are tired of climbing BH hills in order to find some receivers.
After the independent media comission transformed SRT and BHT into Radio-television of Republika Srpska, meaning Federal television, this game with "disobedient and unadequate" media looks like a big cleaning before the new millenium.