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Balkan Report: September 3, 1997

3 September 1997, Volume 1, Number 6

Bosnian Serbs Attack U.S. Troops. It was a familiar scene. Excited crowds of angry Serbs, many of them drunk, threw rocks, boards or whatever else they could find at the objects of their rage. These Serbs were, moreover, well organized, and many of them had been bused in from far away to take part in the demonstration.

The scene could have taken place in any number of towns in Serbia or Montenegro during Slobodan Milosevic's rise to power in the late 1980s. It also could have happened in Croatia or Bosnia just before Milosevic unleashed his wars of conquest against those two republics at the start of this decade. But the place was Brcko in northern Bosnia on August 28, and the protest was directed not against Milosevic's local political enemies but against NATO peacekeepers. The U.S. forces were helping Bosnian Serb police loyal to Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic take control of the local police station from forces backing her hard-line opponent, indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic. The standoff ended by the next day, but the atmosphere in the strategically vital town remained tense.

The mob scene was repeated again on September 1, when SFOR tried to take control of a television transmitter near Bijeljina from Karadzic's men. That incident underscored how important the electronic media are in Bosnia, where individual transmitters have often been fiercely contested as real military prizes.

RFE/RL Debunks Karadzic's News Broadcasts. Control of the media has, in fact, been a key priority of all sides throughout the conflict in the former Yugoslavia. The reason is that most of the population lives in rural areas and receives virtually all of its information via the air waves. RFE/RL provides an effective alternative to the one-sided and often hate-mongering broadcasts of state-run media, like those of Milosevic and Karadzic.

Milosevic made control of the media one of his top priorities during his rise to power in 1987, RFE/RL recalled on August 28. That broadcast went on to analyze how Karadzic has used innuendo -- as well as outright lies -- against Plavsic in his news programs from Pale. RFE/RL pointed out that Pale news used to call Plavsic "president" before she turned on Karadzic and his group. Pale then began referring to her as "professor," later as "the lady," and now as "that woman."

RFE/RL recalled that Pale news likes to remind its listeners that Plavsic is divorced. Such broadcasts imply that she cannot manage her personal life, let alone that of the country. Pale also tells its listeners that Plavsic is a traitor while Karadzic is a rallying point for all Serbs.

The innuendo, RFE/RL continued, also extends to Pale's descriptions of Plavsic's advisors. Karadzic's journalists hint that her staffers are not good Serbs but rather the offspring of mixed marriages.