by Senad Pecanin
Biljana Plavšić’s statement to the court at the Hague Tribunal this week represents, in terms of its long- term significance, the most important postwar event for Bosnia-Herzegovina. The extent of Plavšić’s moral conversion – from a monster participating in the most horrific of crimes to a person conscious of being responsible for her own actions – make her confession at The Hague significant for the history of not just the Serb people, but modern civilization too.
It is perhaps too early to discuss the consequences Plavšić’s speech may have on the process of sobering up the Serb people, particularly in Bosnia. Yet there is no doubt that the enormous potential impact of her words, especially those addressed to her fellow Serbs, depends in large measure upon the ability of Serbs and others in B-H actually to hear or read what she said.
If one is to judge by the manner in which the two most popular TV stations in the country – PBS [Public Broadcasting Service] and Federal Television – marketed Plavšić’s speech during their major information programmes, then we should eliminate any illusion about it having any effect. For what was headline news for both BBC and CNN was not so for our local TV: the editors of the two television stations did not find it appropriate to broadcast Plavšić’s address to the court, nor even to mark this historic moment in their headlines.
The reaction of the two Bosnian TV stations is the best demonstration of the utter debacle of the international community’s strategy for the public media sector – so crucial for the future of this country. Useless to spend hundreds of millions of dollars if highly paid international ‘experts’ choose personnel in their own image; useless to invest in technology and broadcasting systems, useless to promote an editorial and management set-up based on the formula: ‘now a Bosniak, now a Serb, now a Croat.’ Sound shoes, a successful surgery or good bread cannot be made by obedient Bosniaks, Serbs or Croats, but only by good cobblers, surgeons and bakers. Unfortunately, the principle is the same with television and journalists.
Comment translated from Dani (Sarajevo),20 December 2002