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Balkan Report: October 22, 1997

22 October 1997, Volume 1, Number 13

The Hunt for Pirate Broadcasters. On October 16, just two weeks after SFOR troops took control of its four transmitters, hard-line Pale TV somehow managed to get back on the air. The programs did not differ in content or language from the earlier anti-Western transmissions that prompted SFOR's move against the relay stations.

Hard-line leaders then publicly proclaimed that "real Serb television is back on the air," while the international community told Pale to stop the journalistic "guerrilla actions" and "pirate broadcasts."

NATO soon found the rogue antenna, and Pale TV was off the air again by October 18. The next day, NATO deployed an aircraft to jam any signals that Pale TV might still manage to broadcast. The aircraft also transmitted its own message to television viewers, namely that the hard-liners forced SFOR to impose a blackout but that Banja Luka TV will soon be available throughout Bosnian Serb territory.

RFE/RL Debunks Serbian Nationalist Declaration. Meanwhile in Belgrade, Orthodox Patriarch Pavle and some 60 Serbian and Bosnian Serb intellectuals signed a declaration on October 16 defending indicted war criminals Radovan Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic. The signatories charged that the two are the victims of Western anti-Serbian sentiments.

The declaration claimed that most of the war crimes charges against Karadzic in particular are fabrications. The signatories declared that "pressure on Radovan Karadzic is tantamount to pressure on the entire Serbian nation." The intellectuals praised Karadzic as the uncompromising defender of his people, and charged that his exclusion from political life is undemocratic.

The next evening, RFE/RL debunked the declaration. Moreover, the broadcast questioned whether the signatories were aware of the social and political damage they may cause by lending their names to such statements.

Specifically, the broadcast said that ideas contained in the declaration could help pave the way for fascism. The commentator singled out Patriarch Pavle for special criticism and asked how he could express support for men whose actions have led to the murder of thousands of people, including thousands of Serbian children.

The broadcast noted, however, that the declaration has few open challengers among the Serbs. Most local human rights groups have become marginalized and feel they have no perspective after years in the political wilderness.

The commentator stressed that each citizen must nonetheless take individual responsibility and not yield to evil.