bosnia report
New Series No: 19/20 October - December 2000
 
Viewers given true picture of recent wars
by Marcus Warren

Viewers given true picture of recent wars

Marcus Warren

For the first time Serb viewers have been shown the truth about the wars in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo. A film broadcast in Belgrade over the weekend went beyond simply casting Slobodan Miloševic as the villain of the recent past. It tentatively touched on the issue of the Serb people's own responsibility for the crimes of the past decade. But it remains a fact that anger at economic hardship, corruption, election fraud and authoritarianism, rather than disgust at Miloševic's past warmongering, fired the protests against him.

The documentary, made in the rebel Yugoslav province of Montenegro only two weeks before, featured footage well-known in the West but rarely, if ever, shown in Serbia before. The shelling of Dubrovnik, the emaciated inmates of the Omarska detention camp in Bosnia, snipers picking off the people of Sarajevo, mass graves of Kosovo Albanians and the sadistic beating of demonstrators by Belgrade police were all shown.

It was called From Gazimestan . . . - a reference to the Turkish name for Kosovo Polje, the site of a famous Serb defeat in 1389 and the starting point for Miloševic's embrace of Serb nationalism. It chronicled his rise to power and its disastrous results for Yugoslavia. By illustrating the nationalist hysteria Miloševic whipped up and the adulation he inspired, the film highlighted the ease with which so many Serbs were exploited by him.

Marko Jankovic, the veteran opposition journalist who broadcast the film, said: ‘We added no commentary. It is up to the viewers to make up their own mind about that man. I believe that many people died because of him.’ The documentary begs an unpleasant question that many Serbs still evade answering: do they now hate Miloševic for starting the wars of the last decade, or just for losing them? Srdjan Pirivatric, a historian who watched the film, said: ‘Until now these topics have only been discussed in small intellectual circles. Now they will be talked about publicly.’

This report appeared in The Daily Telegraph (London), 10 October 2000

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