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THE MEDIA CRIMINALS
September 8, 1993
- THE MOST IMPORTANT MERCHANDISE OF WAR TRADERS
by Klaus Birkholm
For fair use only
Published under the provision of
U.S. Code, Title 17, section 107.
Can any more horrifying and
more loathsome war crime be imagined? Serbian snipers are offered a reward
of some 2,500 krunas (the equivalent of 300 pounds) for every child they
This story was launched at
the beginning of summer 1992, when the Serbo-Croatian war was already in
full swing in Bosnia, and Western media were already over-saturated with
reports on barbarian atrocities. The source was a volunteer aid worker,
Steve Watt, who was interviewed in a BBC news service programme one Sunday
Serbs "target the children,"
said Watt, "because of the money and because they are easier to kill".
It was asserted that some 400 children were shot dead, while 11,000 were
injured, as a result of the Serbs' cynical rewards.
A Good Story
As most editorial boards would
say, this was one good story. The following day it was transmitted on the
BBC World Service news programme, which can be heard worldwide by 300 million
listeners in English-speaking regions. British journalist Karl Waldron
tried to investigate the story. It turned out that Watt had heard it from
some Croats he had met during his journey with a humanitarian aid convoy.
This was a well-known story
to the Croatian public. First appearing in an article written by Irce Zortic,
it gained credence when it was cited in almost all the Croatian media and
was transmitted by Radio Croatia, the national (state) radio station.
Waldron got in touch with
Irce Zortic who stood firmly to his story, but admitted that it had been
given to him by the Croatian Ministry of Information.
He did not try to check it
out, because "you can't expect us to ring the Serbs and then believe them
when they say this information isn't true". This, however, was not the
end of the investigation. Waldron established that the story had already
been circulating in close diplomatic circles at the time it was "delivered"
And it had found its way to
those cireles owing to a fax machine in an office on M Street in Washington,
This fax machine which - as
reported by an increasingly large number of sources - played a central
role in the media war about former Yugoslavia, is located in the PR
offices of Ruder & Finn, which receives US $18,000 a month from
the govemments of Croatia and Bosnia to take
care of their image in the international public.
firm receives a flood of information from these two clients. Its employees
then select strategically suitable stories - such as this "Cash for a Corpse"
story, and transmit them by fax to pivotal creators of public opinion worldwide.
"It's not our job to check
the accuracy of the infommation. Neither do we have the resources to do
so", Waldron was told by Rhoda Paget.
The Media Are a Front
is the first victim of any war." That famous saying by American
senator Hiram Johnson has been well used over time. This
Balkan war has offered the strongest proof so far that the electronic media
and infommation technology have changed the public to such an extent that
the above saying should be worded more sharply: The media have become the
media have become irreplaceable both in preparing and waging wars.
In the beginning it was difficult to substantiate this mechanism, because
the editorial boards of all the media enterprises were running
after "good stories", at least one new story a day. Now, however,
with the war going on for more then three years, a number of critical journalists
are slowly managing to shed light on a different picture.
One of them is Dubravka Ugresic,
a Croat. At the beginning of the summer, in the Index on Censorship magazine
she published an interesting story about how a "culture of falsehood" was
functioning in her country. In 1981, the citizens of Duga Resa, a town
in Croatia, planted a small forest, recounts Mrs. Ugresic. "The 88 trees
were a birthday present for Tito."
Today this forest has been
cut down by the citizens of the town: they said they had removed "the last
remnants of the communist regime". Those who cut down the forest were the
same men who had planted it. How could it come to this? By a systematic
modification of the national collective memory, asserts Ugresic.
Namely, with the war as a
backdrop, now there is no place left for any individual memories. Each
story is fit into the "young nation's struggle against the Serbian war
Through terror, one falsehood
about a nation is removed from the collective memory, only to be replaced
by a new, quite similar falsehood. "Some ten years ago the ethnic groups
of former Yugoslavia were weeping at the funeral of their aged father-figure,
Tito," writes Ugresic. "Those same ethnic groups now unanimously claim
that they were living under the heel of 'a communist dictator'. The most
extreme elements are reacting by using plaster figures of Tito's head for
trapshooting. "In this way, they have started to cast out the demons of
their own communism with considerable delay (10 years later)", notes Ugresic.
The fact that there was almost
no intellectual opposition to the Yugoslav regime is completely disregarded
today. How else could those surviving the war face the future without being
ashamed? Now they all remember that they were living an oppressed life
in the "dungeon of ethnic groups".
Ugresic cites a number of
examples of writers whose work was regularly published in Tito's time,
and who now state that (before) they were never given the floor. She is
quite convinced that she knows where to place the responsibility: with
In January 1992, the Serbs
and Croats signed a cease-fire after the first war, waged in the regions
populated by the Serbs in Croatia. "According to Ivan Zvonimir Cicak, chairman
of the Croatian Helsinki Committee on Human Rights, about
15,000 homes owned by Serbs in Croatia were destroyed to a greater
or lesser extent during the first 15 months atter the cease-fire", writes
Article 19. This ethnic persecution, "obviously tolerated
by the government, went on practically unnoticed by the Croatian media,
which were increasingly focusing their efforts on depicting the Serbs as
mortal enemies of the Croats".
The Media War Crime
The cultural editor of the
Helsingborgs Dagblad (Sweden) Soren Sommelious states: "One cannot understand
what happened and what is still happening in the former Yugoslavia without
knowing the role of the media. A military war would not be possible without
a preparatory media war. One day when this all ends, and when it comes
to shedding light on the thruth and placing responsibility, joarnalists
will also be standing among the accused. A new term is already being used:
media war criminals."
WOMEN AND CHILDREN AS PR TOYS
"The Patriot News", Harrisburg,
PA, December 5, 1991
under title: CROATIA
USING WOMEN, CHILDREN AS HUMAN SHIELDS
"St. Paul Pioneer Press",
Minnesota, Thursday, 12/05/91
under title: WOMEN, CHILDREN
BECOME HUMAN SHIELDS IN BESIEGED DUBROVNIK
"Marin Independent Journal",
page A4, 12/5/1991
by DAN STETS, Knight Ridder
For fair use only
Published under the provision of
U.S. Code, Title 17, section 107.
officials have banned women and children from leaving this besieged ancient
city in an effort to deter further attacks by the Yugoslav Army.
top United Nations relief official in Dubrovnik on Wednesday strongly condemned
the move, estimating that up to 4,000 women and children would like to
have the opportunity to leave the city, where 120 people were killed
in heave shelling last month.
"No woman or child should
be obliged to be a hero or used as a shield," said Staffan de Mistura,
special envoy of UNICEF in Dubrovnik. "It is a major right to decide whether
to be a martyr or a hero, not a duty."
The six-member Dubrovnik crisis
committee decided six days ago that the defense of this coastal Adriatic
city required the presence of all remaining women and children.
UNICEF was informed of the
decree three days ago, and on Tuesday, it was first implemented: 200 people
were prevented from leaving the city on a UNICEF relief vessel that had
brought supplies to the city.
officials defended the decree as a way to boost morale here, as well as
to prevent the attack.
a psychological viewpoint, it is a great advantage to have these people
here because an empty city has no motivation, no soul to defend itself,"
Col. Milivoj Mimica, deputy commander of Croatian forces in Dubrovnik,
surprisingly candid interview, Mimica listed three principal reasons for
he said, if the women and children stay, it will mean that the attacking
army would be shooting at them and not just at a walled city.
he said, their presence might force the army to hesitate before shooting.
if there is an attack, the international public
reaction to such an attack would be a public relations coup for Croatia,
which has been trying desperately for months to get diplomatic and military
support from the West.
Mimica said he had been "greatly
disappointed" by the Western response to fighting in Croatia, charging
that the Serb-led Yugoslav People's Army was committing genicide against
the Croats, not just killing people, but also trying to wipe out Croatian
culture - its historical monuments, libraries, churches and factories.
of UNICEF characterized the decision by the all-male Dubrovnik crisis committee
as cowardly and cynical. "If war is decided by men, then these men
should not fight using women and children as shields," he said. "If they
don't have the courage to fight this war without shields, then they should
call a lawyer and sit down with the other side and work out the settlement."
De Mistura said the goverment
and military of Croatia were emplying tactic widely condemned when it was
used recently by governments in Iraq, Ethiopia and the Sudan.
UNICEF has evacuated 6,400
woman and children from Dubrovnik so far. Only 100 to 300 people scheduled
to leave on the ship Tuesday were allowed to depart and UNICEF was told
by Dubrovnik officials that no one else would be allowed to leave.
A large cargo ship scheduled
to bring 500 tons of relief supplies Friday has enough space to take away
several hundred woman and children. Another UNICEF official said it was
apparent that many other people, especially women with children, would
like to leave the city. When a relief vessel sailed from Dubrovnik with
788 people aboard last week, another 400 people were on the pier, clamoring
to get aboard, he said.
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The truth belongs to us all.
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Last revised: March 05, 1997