by Petar Lukovic
What used to be known as ‘the independent media’ - and which for years have been generously subsidized by the West -are today preoccupied by such popular political topics as: ‘Will Kostunica run for the presidency?’, ‘What is Djindjic up to?’, or ‘Whose man is interior minister Mihajlovic?’. Not a single story about the kidnappings of Muslims in Sjeverin and Strpci, nothing about Dubrovnik, about Sarajevo niente, while Vukovar is mentioned only as the place where ‘our Sljivo (translation: Veselin Sljivanovic) really screwed them’. There are freshly painted graffiti on the fence round the destroyed army HQ [in Belgrade], and from my bus I see a crowd of children gathered there before Sljivo’s poster as if hypnotized.
Take Vreme, say. This once respected weekly has declined to a few thousand copies nurturing ‘moderate journalism’, the full scope of whose meaningless emptiness is impossible to describe without succumbing to slumber. When it does pluck up courage and announce some ‘Investigative Report’, this will deal with such burning, dangerous social themes as: ‘Stars under the counter’ (about showbiz) or ‘The death of Yugo-football’ (about so-called football). Its main columnist (Stojan Cerovic) invested an enormous amount of journalistic effort into seeking for himself the post of ambassador to the USA - he spent months openly courting Kostunica, calling him ‘wise’ and ‘magnificent’; writing that the time was not yet ripe to open the subject of war crimes, and that the Hague Tribunal was endangering the fragile foundations of democracy in Serbia and Croatia - only to miss out on the lottery-draw when Dr Voja failed to select him for that honourable patriotic function.
Or take TV B92. The airtime regularly given on various of its programmes to a host of obscure fascists and chauvinists (Isidora Bjelica, Dragos Kalajic, Bora Djordjevic, Nikola Pejakovic, Kosta Cavoski, Ljiljana Smajlovic, etc. - not to speak of Slobodan Milosevic’s defence lawyers) can surprise only people who do not know what ‘pacification’ means in practice. It means that you invite victim and executioner together to the studio, occasionally show some Chetnik documentary, broadcast films about the destruction of Sarajevo at some early hour in the morning, organize discussions involving Miroslav Lazanski or Miljana Baletic - and dub all this a programme of ‘Reconciliation and Responsibility’. And that you never under any circumstances mention journalists who may be war criminals - after all, why stir up shit when the world is giving us all this money so that we can be Bright and Jolly?
Which brings us to the money. In 2002, a record sum of money arrived in Serbia intended for independent media: sources close to foreign embassies speak of a sum close to $30 million! According to Senad Pecanin, editor of the Sarajevo weekly Dani, this represents record aid of its kind in the history of mankind! Croatia and Bosnia can only dream of a fraction of this sum. Just by chance I was able to witness at a US embassy reception how this love affair between ‘independents’ ‘dependents’ and mentors concerned to exclude any ‘disruptive element’ (e.g. Lukovic) looks in practice. All jumbled together, perhaps even in each others arms, were Vreme, Politika ekspres, Svet, B92 TV, Duga, BK TV, Profil, Zona Sumraka - all gay and having a good time.
Translated from Feral Tribune (Split), 13 July 2002