The muslims knew how to play the game and knew how to use PR. Majority of the "muslim dead" were Serbs and was orchestrated to be seen as "butchered muslims", but were in fact "butchered Serbs".
One of Burns's first stories after his arrival back in Sarajevo in July 1993 contained a reference to the infamous "bread line massacre" of the previous year, which Bosnian Muslims used to pressure the U.N. Security Council as it prepared to vote for sanctions against Serbia. A year after some U.N. official acknowledged that Muslims, not Bosnian Serbs, had set off explosive that killed 22 civilians outside a Sarajevo bakery. Burns and the "Times" still reported the claim that a Serb mortar had caused the tragedy. Ironically, that same July 5 story by Burns focused on Bosnian paramilitary police in Sarajevo who were firing mortars on nearby Bosnian army units. Repeated attempts to interview Burns, who returned briefly to Toronto last June, were unsuccessful.
There have also been questions about Roy Gutman's Pulitzer-winning scoops in August 1992 about two Serb-run "death camps." Gutman constructed his accounts, to his credit, admittedly so, from alleged survivors of Manjaca and Trnopolje. But as one British journalist, Joan Phillips, has pointed out: "The death camp stories are very thinly sourced. They are based on the very few accounts from hearsay. They are given the stamp of authority by speculation and surmise from officials. Gutman is not guilty of lying. He did not try to hide the fact that his stories were thinly sourced." But it is also true, as Phillips noted, that Gutman's disclaimers were placed near the end of the article. Yet those stories were the principal basis for the world's belief that the Serbs were not simply holding Muslim prisoners but were operating death camps in Bosnia. Phillips also drew attention to Gutman's visit in September 1992 to the scene of a massacre of 17 Serbs near Banja Luka, which went unreported until December 13, three months later. Gutman could not be contacted and "Newsday" editors would not explain the lapse in publication. Gutman did discuss his reporting later on: in an interview in the July 1993 "American Journalism Review," he explained that he had abandoned strict objectivity in his coverage in order to pressure governments to act.
The entire media response to the issue of atrocities against Serbs raises a troubling question: why did the press show such minimal interests in Serb claim of death camps housing their own people? Documents submitted to the European parliament and U.N. by Bosnian Serbs have included horrible claims:
The resulting handful of rape-produced births also clearly contradicts claims of waves of systematic rape-induced pregnancies supposedly treated in Bosnia hospitals and reported by Bosnian government authorities and Western journalists.
The general lack of follow-up on the rape allegations is in stark contrasts to the lone account of French journalist Jerome Bony, who described in a February 4, 1993, broadcast on the French television program "Envoye Special" his trek to Tuzla, notorious for its concentration of Muslim rape victims:
"When I was at 50 kilometers from Tuzla I was told, 'go to Tuzla high school ground (where) there are 4,000 raped women'. At 20 kilometers this figure dropped to 400. At 10 kilometers only 40 were left. Once at the site, I found only four women willing to testify."
At the height of the rape story, media gullibility reached new levels. In mid-February 1993, the Associated Press, citing only a Bosnian government source, reported alleged cannibalism by starving Muslims in Eastern Bosnia. The story achieved instant headlines in the United States. Receiving little if any play, however, was the vigorous denial the following day by U.N. officials in Bosnia, who rushed to the scene of supposedly starving villagers and discovered them still in possession of livestock and chickens.
In its effort to force Western military intervention, the media also critically neglected to report essential details about the 17-hour debate last may that led to the Bosnian Serb Parliament's rejection of the Vance-Owen plan. No fewer than 50 reports were filed on the Associated Press and "New York Times" wire services in the 18 hour period following the final vote by the Bosnia Serb Parliament, but only one of them attempted a minimal description of the plan.
"The mauling of Sarajevo, the worst single crime against a community in Europe since Auschwitz, cannot be watched impassively night after night on television news bulletins," as Robert Fox of the London "Daily Telegraph" put it. That was the general image. But another side of the story deserved more attention.
As early as July 1992, senior Western diplomats had stated publicly that Bosnian Muslim forces in Sarajevo were repeatedly provoking Serb shelling of the city to trigger western military intervention. But few wire stories from Sarajevo bothered to establish that the almost daily artillery barrages and ceasefire violations were not always started by Bosnian Serbs, who often, officials said repeatedly, were returning fire from Muslims who had fired on Serb targets and neighborhoods first. Without making such distinctions, stories implied that the Serbs were alone to blame for the "Siege of Sarajevo." Also, U.N. observers were positioned primarily to detect artillery actions by Serbs, raising questions about the volume of non-Serb artillery fire, which was often observed to be almost as intense as Serb shelling.
"Kosevo" hospital in Sarajevo was a favorite backdrop for television journalists who, when the hospital's water supply was interrupted because of the shelling, eagerly awaited the first birth without water in the maternity ward. Once they got their pictures, the Western film crews dismantled their cameras and returned to the nearby Holiday Inn, where hot water was abundant. Unreported was the fact that on their exit from the hospital they had to avoid tripping over a shielded Bosnian army mortar emplacement that was never identified as the probable reason why Serbs sporadically fired at the hospital.
Countless news stories rarely heeded statements from U.N. officials that Bosnian Muslim units frequently initiated their own shelling of Muslim quarters of the city as well as Serb neighborhoods. For instance, on March 23, 1993, major Pee Galagos of UNPROFOR in Sarajevo described the previous day's exchanges; "There were 341 impacts recorded: 133 on the Serbian side and 208 on the Bosnian side with 82 artillery rounds, 29 mortar rounds and 22 tank rounds hitting the Serbians; and 115 artillery, 73 mortar and 20 tank rounds hitting the Bosnians."
It was a rare exception to the media's usual tilt when, on July 22, 1992, the "Guardian" reported U.N. commander Mackenzie's reaction to attacks on civilian targets in Sarajevo: "Mortars are set up beside hospitals, artillery beside schools, mortars and other weapons are carried in ambulances. I've never seen the Red Cross abused like that, on both sides." Such reports seldom appeared in the American media, which may explain some dramatic differences in the public perspectives about intervention between Europe and the United States.
French general Phillipe Morillon, following his relief as commander of UNPROFOR in late June 1993, emphatically blamed the Bosnian Muslim government for failing to lift the siege of Sarajevo. In an interview with the Prague daily "Lidove Noviny", Morillon said the Bosnian regime wanted to keep Sarajevo a focal point for world sympathy and repeatedly refused to allow UNPROFOR to achieve a ceasefire.
By mid-1993, the ability to tell the Serb side of the story was gone, as some observers recognized. "The Serbians have much to say and as yet have had virtually no opportunity to do so," argued Mary Hueniken in "The London Free Press." "Sanctions slapped on Serbia prevent it from hiring a PR firm to help it put its two cents in," reported the June 7, 1993, issue of "O'Dwyer's Washington Report," a public relations and public affairs publication that monitors the PR industry in Washington.
"As a result, Serbs, thought surely guilty of numerous atrocities, have been pilloried in the press. Reporters, meanwhile, cheer on the out-gunned Bosnians, who undoubtedly have their own skeletons in the closet, and give Croatia, which wants to carve up its own chunk of Bosnia, a free ride. The U.S. public won't get a clear picture of what is really happening in the Balkans until Serbia is allowed to present its case through PR."
The tentative media self-criticism that has emerged so far has focused superficially on television coverage of the Yugoslav civil war. According to the Center for Media and Public Affairs, a nonprofit research organization in Washington, for the first three months of 1993 the major networks aired 233 stories on Bosnia during prime-time news, as opposed to only 137 stories on president Bill Clinton's economic plans.
Similarly, Marc Gunther, of Knight-Ridder newspapers, noted the "depressing regularity" of ABC's "World News Tonight" broadcasts about Bosnia. "Is ABC doing too much with the story, or are its rivals not doing enough? And what accounts for the different approaches?" he wrote. Gunther's story was based on the "Tyndall Report", which monitors evening newscasts. It found that ABC's Yugoslav war reporting had provided 301 minutes of coverage, compared with 179 for NBC's "Nightly News" and 177 for the CBS'S "Evening News" during the 11 months that ended in March."
"In 1992, excluding the election, the most covered story on ABC was the Balkans," Gunther continued. "CBS's top story was the Los Angeles riots, while NBC devoted the most minutes to Somalia. ABC's "Nightline", meanwhile, has devoted more than a dozen programs to the Balkans since last year, many consisting entirely of reporting from the scene of the fighting." The analysis suggested a special ABC commitment to the Bosnian war. Gunther noted that Roone Arledge "has a personal connection to the war because, as president of ABC sports, he produced coverage of the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo. Last year, David Kaplan, a producer for ABC's "Prime Time Live", was killed by a sniper's bullet while preparing a report on the war." Gunther also underlined Peter Jennings's "personal convictions on Bosnia" and his admonitions that the world community had failed to ease the suffering there. An ABC spokesman, contacted for response, said Gunther and the Knight-Ridder story were "right on the money."
In ABC's case, the motive for its coverage may be easy to find. But that is not the case for many other news organizations. In the wake of the negligence and pack journalism that have distorted the coverage of the Yugoslav civil war to date, the media would be well-advised to gaze into their own mirrors and consider their dubious records. At some point, historians or unofficial international investigation will determine the true culpability of all the actors in the Yugoslav tragedy. But one of those actors is the press itself. In Bosnia, where major governments had few intelligence assets and where the role of international public opinion was central, it was critical that the news media report with precision and professionalism. Instead, the epitaph above the grave of objective and fair reporting in the Yugoslav war probably will be written with the cynicism conveyed in an internal memorandum of April 19, 1993, from a cartoonist to his syndicate's editorial-page editors:
"I was SKEDed earlier today for a cartoon on the Rodney King verdict to be faxed out this afternoon. However, given the racial and legal complexities of the case we have decided that such an issue is best left unaddressed in the uncompromising language of an editorial cartoon. I will be sending a cartoon on the war in Bosnia instead."
Johnnyonthespot, i can go on and on.
YOu want to know why the Serbs wanted to force the muslim army out of Gorazde back in the spring of 1994???
Let me guess....bin Laden was among them???
By mid-1993, the ability to tell the Serb side of the story was gone, as some observers recognized.
Gee I wonder why. Serbophibia I guess....