Slobodan Markovic on Sun, 25 Apr 1999 06:37:35 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Western media reports from Belgrade

    When I heard that Tim Marshal, Sky TV's reporter from Belgrade,
    will leave soon because of "family reasons", I knew that something
    is fishy. Yesterday I received this e-mail from a friend...

    "Everyone who recently watched the new Sky TV's reporter knows why
    Tim Marshal is retreated. It is totally unbelievable what that man
    is saying. Things like: "Now, when we hit the heart of Milosevic's
    propaganda machine, democratic televisions will have more space"
    or "Only the richest people in Serbia can afford satellite dishes,
    so nobody here knows what is really happening."

    Here's an interesting article, forwarded from Syndicate mailing
    list, written by The Independent's reporter Robert Fisk.


            Slobodan Markovic   | http://solair.eunet.yu/~twiddle
            Internodium Project |


'Once you kill people because you don't like what they say, you change the
rules of war'

Hanging upside-down from the wreckage was a dead man, in his fifties
perhaps, although a benevolent grey dust had covered his face. Not far
away, also upside-down - his legs trapped between tons of concrete and
steel - was a younger man in a pullover, face grey, blood dribbling from
his head on to the rubble beneath. 


Deep inside the tangle of cement and plastic and iron, in what had once
been the make-up room next to the broadcasting studio of Serb Television,
was all that was left of a young woman, burnt alive when Nato's missile
exploded in the radio control room. Within six hours, the Secretary of
State for International Development, Clare Short, declared the place a
"legitimate target". 

It wasn't an argument worth debating with the wounded - one of them a
young technician who could only be extracted from the hundreds of tons
ofconcrete in which he was encased by amputating both his legs. Nor with
the silent hundreds who gathered in front of the still-smoking ruin at
dawn yesterday, lost for words as they stood in the little glade of trees
beside St Marko's Cathedral, where Belgrade's red and cream trams turn
round. A Belgrade fireman pulled at one of the bodies for all of 30
seconds before he realised that the man, swinging back and forth amid the
wreckage, was dead. 

By dusk last night, 10 crushed bodies - two of them women - had been
tugged from beneath the concrete, another man had died in hospital and 15
other technicians and secretaries still lay buried. A fireman reported
hearing a voice from the depths as the heavens opened, turning into mud
themuck and dust of a building that Ms Short had declared to be a
"propaganda machine". 

We had all wondered how long it would be before Nato decided that Radio
Televizija Srbija should join the list of "military" targets. Spokesmen
had long objected to its crude propaganda - it included a Nato symbol
turning into a swastika and a montage of Madeleine Albright growing
Dracula teeth in front of a burning building. 

It never reported on the tens of thousands of Albanian refugees who spoke
of executions and "ethnic cleansing" in Kosovo. It endlessly repeated
films that depicted Yugoslav soldiers as idealised heroes defending their
country. It carried soporific tapes of President Slobodan Milosevic
meeting patriarchs, Cossacks, Russian envoys and the Kosovo Albanian
leader Ibrahim Rugova. The channel was showing an American interview with
Mr Milosevic when the first cruise missile smashed into the station's
control room just after two o'clock yesterday morning. 

But did this justify killing the night staff in their studios and taping
rooms? Two weeks ago, Nato's spokesmen had been suggesting that RTS would
have to carry six hours of Western television a day if it was to survive -
CNN's bland, safe coverage of events presumably offering some balance to
the rubbish churned out on the RTS news. But once Nato decided this was as
preposterous as it was impracticable, its spokesman announced that the
station was not on the list of Nato targets. Then, on Monday, CNN's bosses
called up from Atlanta to inform the satellite boys in Belgrade that they
should pull out of the RTS offices. Against the wishes of other Nato
nations, so the word went, General Wesley Clark had decided to bomb Serb
television. CNN withdrew from the building in Takovska Street. And that
night, we were all invited to have coffee and orange juice in the studios. 

The building was likely to be a target of the "Nato aggressor", according
to Goran Matic, a Yugoslav federal minister, as he walked us through the
ground floor of the doomed building. Yet, oddly, we did not take him
seriously. Even when the air-raid siren sounded, I stayed for another

Surely Nato wouldn't waste its bombs on this tiresome station with its
third-rate propaganda and old movies, let alone kill its staff. 

Yesterday morning, the moment I heard the cruise missile scream over my
hotel roof, I knew I was wrong. There was a thunderous explosion and a
mile-high cloud of dust as four storeys collapsed to the ground,
sandwiching offices, machines, transmitters and people into a pile of
rubble only 15 feet high. 

Yet, within six hours, Serb television was back on the air, beaming its
programmes from secret transmitters, the female anchorwoman reading the
news from pieces of pink paper between pre-recorded films of Serbian
folk-songs and ancient Orthodox churches. All along, the Serbs had been
ready for just such an attack. We had not believed Nato capable of such
ferocity. The Serbs had. 

The crowds still stood in the park as darkness fell, watching the men with
drills punching their way through the concrete for more survivors. By that
time, explanations were flowing from Nato's birthday celebrations in
Washington. Serbia's "propaganda machine" had been prolonging the war. I
wonder. I seem to recall Croatian television spreading hatred a-plenty
when it was ethnically cleansing 170,000 Serbs from Croatia in 1995. But
we didn't bomb Zagreb. And when President Franjo Tudjman's lads were
massacring Serbs and Muslims alike in Bosnia, we didn't bomb his
residence. Was Serbian television's real sin its broadcast of film of the
Nato massacre of Kosovo Albanian refugees last week, killings that Nato
was forced to admit had been a mistake? 

Yes, Serbian television could be hateful, biased, bad. It was owned by the
government. But once you kill people because you don't like what they say,
you have changed the rules of war. And that's what Nato did in Belgrade in
the early hours of yesterday morning. 

[From The Independent]

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