Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Media Truth, Not Propaganda Crucial for Any Balkan Peace Privately Funded Media Should Broadcast to Zagreb, Belgrade

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Media Truth, Not Propaganda Crucial for Any Balkan Peace Privately Funded Media Should Broadcast to Zagreb, Belgrade

Article excerpt

WAR in the former Yugoslavia was begun by media. Hence, giving equal media weapons to the democratic opposition is the only way to stop it from spreading to the Serb province of Kosovo and throughout the Balkans.

State-controlled media are the key to the power of President Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia and President Franjo Tudjman of Croatia. This is the source of the nationalist insanity that has consumed the Balkans. A five-year propaganda campaign continues in Serbia; in Croatia especially, no opposition media exists for long. Lies, distortions, manipulation of historical fears, and grisly images are the means of waging psychological warfare.

People are sealed off from reality; most get their news only from government-controlled TV. One man who could still afford to buy Vreme, an independent magazine in Serbia, said, "I read it so I can stay sane in my psychotic culture."

Information can change people and politics. Milan Panic, former prime minister of Yugoslavia, argues that giving people the facts is the first step toward a political solution. The second is for the West to support the democratic opposition in former Yugoslavia.

There has been little backing for the democratic opposition in the independent media. Neither United States, Canadian, nor European politicians; peace activists; journalists; media organizations; or foundations have met the need.

The Europeans may be a bit better at it. However, the Council of Europe waited until last April to come up with a few months' funding for the Radio Boat that began broadcasting off the coast of Croatia. Though staffed by an ethnic mix of some of the best journalists from former Yugoslavia, the Council provided an inadequate antenna whose signal couldn't be heard in Zagreb or Belgrade.

Nor would that be enough to win the battle of words. Still, Messrs. Tudjman and Milosevic could not risk even that small threat to their control. The Serb government contacted the International Telecommunications Union, and on June 25 the Radio Boat stopped broadcasting.

Even though the West helped the Radio Boat finesse the broadcast regulations and get back on the air by mid-August, the media is too important to leave to Western governments that have mucked up almost everything in the former Yugoslavia. Their outdated thinking focuses on government radio. Yet to reach a majority of the people, the main battle must be fought on TV. In Serbia, 64 percent of the people get their news from television.

To have credibility and impact, a new TV competitor should not be run or funded by foreign governments. In a nationalist situation where most people support their government, news connected to foreign government would be dismissed as lies or propaganda.

To set up untainted, independent TV, media moguls like Rupert Murdoch, Conrad Black, and Ted Turner are needed. …

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