4. the Breakup of Yugoslavia
Biernatzki, William E., Communication Research Trends
The Balkan Problem
Somewhat ironically, the process of "de-Communization" in Eastern Europe seemed to "lift the lid" that had kept long-term ethnic, nationalist, and inter-religious antipathies from developing into armed conflict as long as Communist-controlled authoritarian governments maintained order. The most striking examples of this phenomenon were seen in former Yugoslavia, where tight Communist rule had ensured peace among such diverse groups as Serbs, Croats, Slovenes, Bosnians, Kosovo Albanians, Macedonians, Montenegrins, etc. There, fighting exploded along several ethnic frontiers during the early 1990s.
Perhaps the most sharply-defined boundary was that between the Serbs and the Croats--religiously Orthodox Christian, on the one side, and Roman Catholic, on the other, the one using the Cyrillic alphabet and the other, the Roman. That division could be traced far back into history, when the creation of the Eastern Roman Empire, centered on Constantinople, drew a line between the Western influence of Rome and the oriental influence of Byzantium. Later, Turkish control of parts of the region added complexity to its ethno-religious mix, but the original line demarcating East from West became increasingly significant with the passing centuries. It was only obscured, never erased, by the Communist hegemony that ruled a united Yugoslavia for four decades after the Second World War. A simplistic "ethnic" explanation of the ongoing tensions in the region has been rejected, in favor of "a plurality of political, economic, and social conflicts" (Stones, 2002) by such authorities as Susan Woodward (1995, as cited in Stones, 2002). Nevertheless, many outside the region, but especially in Europe, became alarmed, since earlier Balkan conflicts had tended to spread to neighboring countries. The most notable instance was in 1914, when the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, by a Serb in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, started the First World War.
Fighting began after the breakup of Yugoslavia in 1991. Often it was a three-way struggle between Orthodox Serbs, Catholic Croats, and Bosnian Muslims. Later, it involved an alliance of Bosnian Croats and Muslims against Bosnian Serbs backed by the Yugoslav army. It continued to 1995, when a peace agreement was signed in Dayton, Ohio, and a 60,000-man peace-keeping force from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization occupied the disputed area.
Selective Reporting from Kosovo
Conflict soon flared up again, as the predominantly Albanian-Muslim province of Kosovo tried to break away from the surviving remnant of Serbian-dominated Yugoslavia, in 1989. By 1997, the Serbs had launched a concerted military effort to regain control of the province. Fearing a repetition of the "ethnic-cleansing" the Serbs had practiced in the earlier conflicts, in Bosnia and Croatia, NATO intervened, most controversially by air attacks against Serb forces, and even against the Yugoslav capital, Belgrade.
The war in Kosovo attracted media attention because, like the earlier conflicts in Croatia and Bosnia, it was on the very doorstep of Western Europe. An added factor, both in Europe and America, was widespread doubt about the appropriateness of the NATO intervention. The NATO involvement meant American involvement, which focused the attention of the American mass media on the crisis. That coverage has been strongly criticized by media scholars for adhering to U.S. and NATO interpretations of the character of the adversaries, omitting, for example, the links of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) to organized crime, especially drug smuggling. Reports of Serbian atrocities, some of them untrue, were emphasized, while those of the KLA were mostly ignored (Thussu, 2000, pp. 350-352; Vincent, 2000, pp. 333-335). The sometimes questionable ethics of NATO air attacks were often downplayed or excused by the U.S. media (Thussu, 2000, pp. …