Posts Tagged ‘Milosevic’

Ethics and Morality in the Media Representation of Serbia? Don’t Make Me Laugh.


Ethics stands for patterns of right behavior according to the norms of a society. Morality, on the other hand, tends to be more personal, as it exemplifies one’s distinction between good or bad conduct. As I consider both, I cannot help but re-visit the media representation afforded to Serbia during NATO bombing of Belgrade back in 1999. For reasons apparent to those that read about the instability weighing in the region at the time, I am of strong belief that Western media violated both ethical and moral principles in covering the warfare.

 Officially a Serbian province, Kosovo was stripped of its constitutionally granted autonomy by Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic in 1989. Until 1999 exodus, 90% of Kosovo population was made up of ethnic Albanians.  In 1992 the Kosovars declared their independence from Yugoslavia, which refused to recognize its decision.  The conflict came to a head with NATO forces stepping in to launch strikes on Yugoslavia as a means of forcing Milosevic to accept a peace deal for Kosovo.

While NATO tried to quickly enforce peace in Kosovo, the way that NATO carried out its action received harsh criticism.  Just because Milosevic’s regime was clearly violating many international laws didn’t justify any reaction without close examination and analysis.  The role of mainstream media, in the West, has been less objective than expected, not verifying various claims and then using them as a major weapon in the form of propaganda to collect support for the war against Serbia. Violation of ethics, one could argue.

The headline over a New York Times (NYT) dispatch from Belgrade on March 24-the first day of bombing read-“U.S. negotiators depart, frustrated by Milosevic’s hard line (New York Times, March 24, p.A1). But the evidence posted in”Forgotten coverage of Rambouillet Negotiations” suggested that it was U.S. negotiators, not the Serbs, who blocked the agreement.  The Kosovo delegation was pressured to accept the agreement though it did not have explicit terms regarding independence.  For Serbia, the agreement had provisions that would let NATO go anywhere in Yugoslavia as they pleased, which was regarded as military occupation and could not be accepted. When the Kosovo Albanians accepted, it became represented as how they supported piece, whilst Serbians rejected it.
The media portrayal of this issue didn’t mention or analyze objectively the actual military and civilian provisions of the peace deal.  The military provision talked about military control of other unspecified nations on Serbian territory.  Any country, with a ruthless leader or not, would not accept such a deal, especially when the U.N is not involved in it. In addition, British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) documentary on January 5, 2003 (“The Fall of Milosevic”) revealed some important aspects to the negotiation process at Rambouillet.  The documentary interviewed many NATO leaders and ministers involved at the time in the negotiations.  In that documentary, the Italian Foreign Minister Dini revealed that the peace agreement that had been drawn up was the means to justify war; that NATO had to get Kosovars to accept it so that the Serbs would be shown to be in the dark side.

The claim by Clinton and company that they have been moved to action over Kosovo because of their humanitarian concern has not the slightest bit of credibility.  Before the bombing began, estimates of the civilian death roll in Kosovo were in the range of 2,000 and the number of refugees somewhat over 300,000.  These are terrible number and they are surely an indication of Milosevic’s brutality.  But they are hardly different from-and in some cases they hardly compare with violence around the world that hardly evoked any kind of humanitarian concern from Washington. Media promote the view that there is a good violence over an evil violence.  “The West’s moral justification was that, over one year, 2000 people had been killed, 250.000 people displaced and that 45 people had been killed in Racak.  After three weeks of bombing, at least 350 civilians have been killed, an additional 500.000 have fled and NATO remained determined to reduce the welfare of 10 million Yugoslavian citizens for years” (Plilger John; Morality? Don’t make me laugh, The Guardian, April 12, 1999)

Something to think about ??