The constant Serb shelling and snipingrnof Sarajevo was brutal, and inhuman.rnSo was the Muslim government’srnshelling and sniping of Serb suburbs, arnprovocation which was often overlooked.rnOn the other side of any frontline arearnaround Sarajevo, countless Serb civiliansrnhave had family members killed byrnsnipers or mortars. Along the famousrnKasindolska Street, the vast majority ofrnSerbs I spoke with had a family memberrnkilled in their own home, sometimesrntwo. Is their suffering not worthy of arnvoice from a supposedly neutral press?rnThere is also the question discussed byrnseasoned observers of how much of thernsuffering in Sarajevo was caused by Serbrnshelling, and how much from the Muslimrngovernment’s own policies, to creaternsiege-like conditions to evoke Westernrnsympathy and intervention. Accordingrnto four-star USAF General Charles G.rnBoyd, formerly the Pentagon’s numbertwornman in Europe, the Muslim governmentrnprevented water from beingrnpumped into the city’s water mains, bothrnto create a stark image of residents liningrnup for water under sniper and mortar firernand to enable local officials to resell U.N.rnfuel donated for water distribution.rnMoreover, according to General Boyd,rnthe U.N. reported only 324 violentrndeaths in Sarajevo in 1994, while thernMuslim government alleged “continuingrngenocide.” Indeed, many have beenrnkilled by Serb actions, but what accountsrnfor the thousands of grave markersrnaround Sarajevo? Perhaps investigatingrnthe human-wave offensives of the BosnianrnMuslim government against heavilyrnentrenched Serb machine gun and mortarrnpositions might give a clue. Journalistsrnwere banned from these offensives,rnbut the Muslim government acknowledgedrnheavy losses. Serbs told me ofrnmowing down thousands in the threeand-rna-half year conflict.rnMuslim forces regularly shelled thernSarajevo airport and shot at relief flightsrnto halt humanitarian aid and to increasernblack market prices. Most fire wasrnblamed on the Serbs. (The role of thernblack market in continuing the warrnshould not be underestimated, nor itsrncontrol by the highest levels of administrationrnon all sides, to the detriment ofrnthe populations they claim to lead). ThernMuslim government was supposed to demilitarizern”safe areas” such as Sarajevo,rnunder U.N. resolution, but Muslimrnforces often fired mortars and snipedrnspecifically from civilian buildings andrnareas, to draw Serbian fire. When thernSerbs responded, either to knock out thernposition or in retaliation (and in greatrnexcess, as was their policy), the internationalrnpress and a ready-made bloodbathrnfor which the government’s press releasesrncould flaunt as proof that they were foreverrnthe “victim of Serb genocide andrnaggression.”rnEven more grotesque was the Muslimrngovernment shooting at its own peoplernwhen Serb fire was not available, particularlyrnat crucial times when the internationalrncommunity was making policyrndecisions for the region. High-rankingrnmilitary and diplomatic officials andrnUNPROFOR personnel from severalrncountries reported that the Muslimsrnwere sniping from the Kosovo Hospital,rnBosnian Parliament building, and otherrnlocations: Was it coincidence that reportersrnand photographers were so oftenrnat hand, or has the press become anrnunwitting player in a new, media-wisernwarfare?rnSeveral of the highly publicized incidents,rnincluding the assassination ofrnjournalist David Kaplan, the “breadlinernmassacre,” the sniping on a refugee busrnfilled with toddlers, and the Markalernmarket massacres of February 5, 1994,rnand August 28,1995, upon further investigationrnhave been found to have possibly,rnor in some cases certainly, beenrncommitted by Muslim forces, oftenrnagainst their own people. But the resultsrnof these investigations are seldom publicized.rnWhat matters are first impressions.rnMany of these staged eventsrnyielded the desired results for the BosnianrnMuslim regime: condemnation ofrnthe Serbs, and outside military intervention.rnManipulation in using images to supportrnone side’s claims has been significant,rnand throws into question the integrityrnand independence of the visualrnnews media. I have had Serbs in EastrnSlavonia show me photos of familyrnmembers slaughtered by Croatians, andrnwhen Serb journalists sold videotape to arnmajor network of the bodies and carnagernleft when the Croats were routed by Serbrnforces, it was broadcast as Croats murderedrnby Serbs. Similarly, Serb funeralsrnaround Sarajevo have been filmed andrnphotographed under Muslim fire, only tornbe captioned as Muslim funerals underrnSerb fire. One would think that thernabundance of crosses and the presence ofrnan Orthodox priest could be differentiatedrnby such a seasoned press corps, or perhapsrnsome of the changes have, from thernbeginning, been at the editorial level.rnThe atrocities in the Balkan conflict—rnwell documented by U.N. personnel andrnmore objective journalists—are probablyrnclose to even. That Serb brutality wasrnexacerbated by Croatian and BosnianrnMuslims’ initial ethnic cleansing of Serbsrnis hardly irrelevant. As some Serbs saidrnto me, the more the West demonizedrnthem, the less reason they saw for restraint.rnIf the international press corpsrnwishes to maintain a veneer of objectivityrnand credibility with a confused andrnskeptical public, perhaps they shouldrnequally investigate the human rights violationsrnand atrocities inflicted on thoserndeemed as “unworthy victims.”rnFor much of the Western public, thernBalkan conflict seemed confusing andrncomplex. Perhaps this is due to the lackrnof regional experience among foreignrncorrespondents. Covering the conflictrn”forced reporters to act as scouts withoutrncompasses in a completely unknown terrain,”rnwrote Sylvia Poggioli of NationalrnPublic Radio. “Reporters have had tornwade through the complex cultural, historicalrnand political geography [of thisrnconflict],” she said, and “very few hadrnthe necessary instruments.” Poggiolirnconcludes: “Journalists . . . need newrncompasses if they are to be a reliable linkrnbetween facts on the ground and publicrnopinion.”rnThis is not a vindication of the Serbs’rncruelty; it is a clarification of culpability,rncalling a spade a spade. We are enteringrnan age of sophisticated propaganda, bothrnfrom technology and strategy, beyondrnthe “good vs. bad” scenarios of newsreelsrna half-century ago. We are not photojournalistsrnwhen we take pictures of brutality;rnwe are merely photographersrnwhose images can be used in any mannerrnto further a party’s geopolitical goals orrneconomic agenda. With media mergers,rnand consequently less real diversity ofrnopinion in the mainstream Americanrnpress, journalists of all stripes will have tornbe more aware and educated about thernregions they cover.rnA complex truth cannot be capturedrnin a sound bite or visual image. A picturerncan be worth a thousand words, but oftenrnit has proved just rhetoric. And whenrneditorial policy allows itself to be co-optedrnby a national agenda, both democracyrnand freedom of the press are at risk.rnRussell Gordon is a world affairs photojournalistrnnow working in Asia.rnAUGUST 1996/43rnrnrn