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Western Press Review: More Kosovo Questions


By Don Hill and Gabrielle Blocker



Prague, 15 June 1999 (RFE/RL) -- Western commentary addresses a number of new questions that arise from the ending of the Kosovo conflict.

SUEDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: SHOCK AND INDIGNATION AT DEATH OF GERMAN JOURNALISTS

German writers react with indignation and shock at the deaths of German newspeople in the Balkans, and sketchy reports that two of them may have been lured from their vehicle and murdered. Cornelia Bolesch writes from Hamburg in a commentary in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung: "This week's issue of Germany's Stern magazine was due to include a special report by two of its star foreign correspondents -- a special photo series documenting NATO's advance into Kosovo. But for Gabriel Gruener and Volker Kraemer, who left a week ago to cover the end of the war, the assignment was their last."

The commentator says: "By late afternoon on Monday, rumors concerning their last minutes alive had surfaced. Had unknown persons promised to show them a mass grave? What is clear is that danger can strike at any moment in Kosovo, against which no amount of planning -- or a bulletproof vest -- can help."

Also in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Peter Sartorius in Munich writes that some reporters may deserve the opprobrium often cast upon the press, but Gruener and Kraemer were not among them. Sartorius writes: "In poet Peter Handke's opinion, war correspondents in the Balkans are bloodthirsty thugs in the pay of commercialized Western media. There is a grain of truth in this: the press, like other professions, employs some people who better fit the cliche of cheap B-movie hacks."

Sartorius writes: "Most journalists in the war-ravaged former Yugoslavia are men and women who are just as conscientious in their responsibility to the public as they are for their own lives. Egon Scotland of the Sueddeutsche Zeitung, killed in Croatia in July 1991, belonged to this majority. And there is not a shred of evidence to suggest that Gabriel Gruener and Volker Kraemer of Germany's Stern magazine, killed in Kosovo at the weekend, did not go about their assignment with anything but the upmost caution and prudence. Nevertheless, all three of them were victims of the wars fought amid the rubble of the crumbling Yugoslavia."

The writer says that some reporters trust that combatants and others will recognize newspeople in war zones as neutral parties and this trust may lead to misjudgment and danger. He concludes: "If this is so, the lesson to be learnt would be that foreign war correspondents are no longer coincidental victims of fighting: when war crimes are meant to be hidden from discovery they become natural targets for hate-filled people who have fallen for the perverse propaganda their government has fed them."

THE WASHINGTON POST: WEST MUST PROMOTE FREE FLOW OF INFORMATION INTO SERBIA

U.S. communications industry executive David Webster urges in a commentary in The Washington Post that Western powers use the newest technologies to assure a free flow of information in the new Kosovo. He writes: "[Yugoslav President] Slobodan Milosevic ruthlessly used the old system of traditional broadcasting as an instrument of control in the largely receptive Serbian state. The people of Serbia saw what he wanted them to see."

Webster says: "In Kosovo, as new national politicians gain power, there will be a natural tendency for them too to use the communications system to create not an open and free society but a mirror image of Serbian control -- just one with a different story."

The writer contends: "There is a different path: minimizing central control. You cease worrying about controlling the content of broadcasting -- with the Internet you can't control it -- [and] you create the opportunity for many voices to be heard. New media technology offers opportunities to diffuse control."

BERLINGSKE TIDENDE: NATO HOPES SERBS WILL REMOVE MILOSEVIC THEMSELVES

Foreign editor Michael Ehrenreich of Denmark's Berlingske Tidende comments: "NATO hopes that now, with the bombardment over, the Yugoslavs will see the cost of the war and will understand how much their own leader has betrayed them. This is a logical assumption bearing in mind that every war Slobodan Milosevic had thrown his people into has ended in disaster. But it is also naive if we consider the crude reality of the Serb police state."

Ehrenreich continues: "There's a risk that after the war Milosevic will make life difficult for the West in the same way Saddam Hussein did after the Gulf War. Yet, it is commendable that we did not actively seek to remove him from power. If we had, the Alliance would have disintegrated, Russia would have intervened militarily, and a generation of Europeans would be feeling the consequences for a long time."

THE TIMES: KOSOVO CRIMINALS MAY ESCAPE RETRIBUTION

The Times, London, worries in an editorial that the criminals of Kosovo may escape retribution. The newspaper says: "The war crimes team establishing itself in the Balkans is about to turn a whole land into a crime scene. The job of forensic teams from NATO member countries ... will be to identify the dead and provide enough basic evidence to name the guilty in the mass murders, rapes and destruction that ethnic Albanian refugees have accused the departing Serb forces of committing against them."

The Times says: "If those with blood on their hands are identified only once outside Kosovo, it will be up to the government of the country they move to to hand them over to the War Crimes Tribunal; Mr Milosevic's Yugoslavia is unlikely to co-operate. But even if many slip through the net, the investigation's symbolism is all-important. Naming victims and villains is an essential precondition for real peace."

ABC: KADARES THREE FUNERAL SONGS FOR KOSOVO

The Spanish daily ABC carries a remarkable and unusual perspective. Staffer Alejandro Munos-Alonso writes about a recently published essay on Kosovo by Albanian writer Ismail Kadare. The commentator says that Kadare's brief text entitled "Three funeral songs for Kosovo" desccribes "rivalry between Serbs and Albanians for this territory as being situated in a zone where West and East, Christians and Moslems, Catholics and Orthodox all confront each other." Munos-Alonso quotes Kadare: "This geographical abomination has lasted for hundreds of years, which suggests that Serbians and Albanians are on entirely different wave-lengths in all areas of life." Kadare concludes: "Sometimes I have the impression that my own blood is at the origin of these horrors."

Some commentaries look beyond Yugoslavia's borders to the conflict's wider repercussions on Western relations with Russia and China.

LE MONDE: RUSSIAN PRESENCE MIGHT LEAD TO PARTIONING OF KOSOVO

The French daily Le Monde expresses concern that the Russian military presence in Kosovo could result in a de facto partitioning of the country. The paper editorializes: "With their show of force... the Russians have finally obtained control of a mini-sector in Kosovo. If, in one way or another, this ends in an effective partition of the province -- which would place a Serbian zone under Moscow's control -- the West will suffer an undoubtable defeat." The editorial concludes: "Such a partition would involve in its own way an application of the politics of ethnic cleansing. That would create a fearsome precedent."

SUEDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: RUSSIAN BEHAVIOR DANGEROUS

Commentator Udo Bergdoll writes in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung that whatever Russia's thinking, its behavior was dangerous and on a par with minefields. The writer comments: "After recovering from its initial shock at what seemed like a stab in the back, the West downplayed Russia's unscheduled occupation of Pristina airport. Russia's melodramatic, unilateral grab was militarily meaningless, but politically it proved that getting along with the former superpower can still be thorny."

He writes: "Whether Russia wanted to prove that it doesn't have to take orders from NATO or whether it was out to carve out a sector of its own as Kosovo was divided, the real message is clear -- Danger - Mines - Danger - Obsolete Thinking."

THE NEW YORK TIMES:U.S. MUST GIVE FULLER EXPLANATION OF CHINESE EMBASSY BOMBING

And The New York Times looks in the other direction, towards NATO's accidental assault on China's Belgrade Embassy. The Times says in an editorial: "One of Washington's top diplomats, Thomas Pickering, is leading a team of American officials to Beijing to explain and once again apologize for the mistaken NATO bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade." It says: "The Clinton administration needs to give China and the American people a fuller explanation of the events that produced the apparently accidental bombing. In an age of computer targeting and laser-guided bombs, mistakes this egregious should not happen."
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