Thursday, July 20, 2006

Article: Media Prejudice

BIRN always has interesting articles on the Balkans, and this one was no exception. The article focuses on the media's reporting on the verdict in the Naser Oric case.
The BIRN reporter notes that:

The media's reporting on the recent verdict in the trial of the former Bosniak commander of Srebrenica, Naser Oric, underlines the continuing partisan nature of war crimes coverage particularly in Republika Srpska and Serbia. Media monitoring in the aftermath of the judgment reflected a general trend that has been evident throughout the war crimes trial process in The Hague , whereby suspects are treated as heroes by their respective community's media...
Few media covered the trial itself, but reported extensively on the case after the judgment and Oric's arrival in Sarajevo , expressing very clear sympathies and prejudices

As the article suggests, the problem with of media reporting is far more problematic than just the reporting on the verdict in Mr. Oric's case.
The first problem is that there seems to be a lack of analysis and coverage when it comes to the war crimes tribunal. As the blurb I quoted noted, very few papers actually covered the trial, while they all covered the verdict. In other words, there seemed to be very few ways for the public to follow and find out exactly *why* the trial chamber had ruled the way it did.
Since the ICTY does not include judgments or transcripts of the hearings in B/C/S the only way non English speaking Bosnians can follow the trial is through the media. But without the print media offering non biased analysis of the trial and explaining what happened during the trial, the people are left with an often skewed view of the verdict.
I've always found the lack of press coverage for the war crimes tribunal interesting. I have talked online to a few Bosnian-Americans and they have told me that they have no interest in following the tribunal. This may be because they are approx. my age, which means they were kids during the war and perhaps they feel removed from Bosnia and the war.
However, I have also read online (can't remember where) that in general there is a lack of interest in the war crimes tribunal. I'm not sure if this lack of interest is reflective of the lack of press coverage; or if the lack of press coverage is reflective on the lack of interest. However, I do think that by just covering the verdict and not the trial the press is doing the public a huge disservice.

Beyond a lack of coverage and analysis, a far more serious problem is that nationalist biases are so ingrained into the press. This problem is especially apparent in the RS sector of the country, although as the article notes, nationalist biases can also be seen to an extent in the Federation as well.
The problem is not in having editors expressing their individual views on the verdict. After all, giving citizens a forum to express their opinion is one of the hallmarks of the free press. The problem seems to be that the press parrots the nationalist p.o.v. without non biased analysis or giving a voice to the "other side." If the Bosnian press is to be taken seriously, than it cannot simply be seen as a spokesman for the nationalists.
The problem with the press is systematic of a far more serious problem in society. As the article says, "people are unable to look at crime irrespective of its religious/national background."
The ethnicity of the accused prejudices press and public opinion for and against him, irrespective of the evidence and facts-and that is a dangerous trend both for the press and for society.

I know that this article/post may have been a bit harsh on the Bosnian press (or at least certain aspects of the press) I don't apologize for that, but I would like to know your experience with the Bosnian and Balkan press, good/bad and indifferent. I have read articles translated into English from Bosnian newspapers, and there were certainly many good, very well written, balanced articles. But as the BIRN report noted, media prejudice is still very apparent.

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