Friday, May 27, 2011

Big news: Mladić and RTS

This news week has not been a slow one in the Balkans, particularly in Serbia. The most substantial news was that Ratko Mladić was found, captured, identified, and arrested on Wednesday. A fugitive for 16 years, Mladić is Serbia’s most wanted war criminal who orchestrated a genocide at Srebrenica. In 1995 he managed the rape of hundreds upon thousands women, slaughter of 8,000, and forceful removal of approximately 30,000 in a massive scale ethnic cleansing campaign. This took place in a town called Srebrenica in Republika Srpska, an autonomous province in northern Bosnia. This terror has been called the worst massacre in Europe since the Holocaust.

The day before he was arrested I wrote about the treatment of war criminals in Croatia and Serbia. This is a huge victory for the Serbs and for Serbia, some have compared it to Osama bin Ladin for the States. The European Union has tossed around Mladić's name for years claiming they won’t accept an application until he is arrested and tried at the Hague International Court of Justice. Serbia is still bogged down by a weak economy, unemployment, corruption and, in particular, Kosovo disputes and poor relations with its neighbors, but this is a monumental step. Some speculate that this arrest was planned as a show for the visit of Catherine Ashton, the EU High Commissioner for Foreign Affairs, on the same day. Immediately following the arrest she voiced the significance for such an event for Serbia and its EU integration and stressed how Mladic should be tried in Hague without delay.

Everything I’ve read emphasizes how old, pallid, and weak he looks. I guess we don’t know how Osama looked before his execution but I sort imagine a similar sorry sight, vulnerable and feeble. It seems a paradox that this vicious Serbian general who is unquestionably culpable for the Srebrenica genocide had some difficulty carrying himself after being found, according to one report.

Today President Obama said called Wednesday an “important day for the families of Mladić’s many victims, for Serbia, for Bosnia, for the United States, and for international justice.”

The second noteworthy headline this week deals with the Radio-Television Serbia (RTS), Serbia’s state-run radio/television station. During the 1990s the station was used as Slobodan Milosević’s key propaganda tool. On Monday, May 23rd, the station admitted this propaganda “hurt the feelings, moral integrity and dignity of the Serbian citizens, intellectuals, members of political opposition, journalists, ethnic and religious minorities, as well as certain neighboring peoples and states.”

They apologized to viewers throughout former Yugoslavia “who were subject to insult, slander and what would now be termed as hate speech.” They claimed their programs during the ’90s were “almost constantly and heavily abused” by Milosevic’s regime to spread propaganda. Milosević fired longtime directors and workers of RTS when he first came to power in ’89 and put his accomplices in charge, turning the station into his mouthpiece.

Serbs were shown as the victims of ethnic attacks, foreign opposition was portrayed as evil and false, and injustices (like in Srebrenica) and uprisings in Kosovo and other countries were concealed. National propaganda 24/7 from one of the most popular and trusted stations played a large part in fueling the nationalistic wars of the ’90s. NATO declared RTS a target in the ’99 bombings and sixteen employees died.

Eventful week for Serbia. Laku noć (good night) from Croatia!

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