CORRESPONDENCErnLetter From Bosniarnby Yoigos FiliopoulosrnInterview With the VicernPresident of thernBosnian SerbsrnThe following is an interview I conductedrnearlier this year with Dr. Nikola Koljevic,rna well-known Shakespearean scholarrnand the current Vice President of thernBosnian Serbs. Dr. Koljevic has been arnprofessor at the University of Sarajevo,rnStanford, and the University of Michigan,rnIn 1990, he was elected to thernBosnian parliament (one of the twornSerbian representatives), and since 1992rnhas been the vice president of the SerbianrnRepublic of Bosnia. The interviewrntook place in Pale, Bosnia (an area controlledrnby the Bosnian Serbs).rnQ: What is your opinion about therncoverage of the war by the Western media?rnA: Everybody knows that the coverage,rnin terms of quantity, is amazing. Itrnis so large that one naturally asks thernquestion “Why?” Why has Bosnia’srncrisis been on the front pages of Europeanrnand, especially, American newspapersrnlike the New York Times and thernWashington Post for the past three years?rnSecond, it was obvious from the beginningrnthat the coverage was biased againstrnthe Serbs. It’s been so biased that PeterrnBrock wrote in Strategic Policy and Defensernthat the range of false reporting andrnprejudice spans from the simple, like arnpicture of a Serbian woman presented asrna Croat, to the sophisticated, such as failingrnto point out that Serbs in Bosnia hadrnnot just come from Serbia but have livedrnhere for centuries. This is how they succeedrnin presenting the Serbs as aggressors.rnIt is much easier for the generalrnpublic to swallow the idea that the Serbsrnwere the aggressors if they thought thatrnthe Serbs had just invaded Bosnia fromrnthe other side of the river Drina. So, werncan see that just by the lack of simple informationrnyou can build a negative image.rnQ: So, you think this was an organizedrnDr. Nikola Koljevic, vice president of the Bosnian Serbsrnmedia campaign?rnA: Yes, I think that it was a very visiblerncampaign against the Serbs. First of all,rnit is quite obvious that public relationsrnand image making—that’s an Americanrnspecialty, something that Americans arernmuch more skillful at than Europeans—rnplayed a very important role. The campaignrnwas designed on the emotionalrnbasis of what really touches the people.rnThey first presented us as the enemies.rnThey then hid the fact that the war didrnnot start in Sarajevo but in Kuprec andrnBosadina, where the first massacre ofrnthe Serbs occurred in the river Sava. So,rnif you combine the notion that the Serbsrnbegan the war with the notion that thernSerbs are the aggressors, you have startedrnon the road toward making Serbs intornthe bad guys in a simple, moralistic divisionrn—the bad guys versus the goodrnguys—a simplistic division especiallyrnattractive to Americans.rnThe next step of this campaign was tornmake up stories about the so-called concentrationrncamps. Yes, we have prisonerrncamps, as do the Croats and the Muslims.rnIn fact, in the early days of the war,rnwhen there was great pressure on us, wernunilaterally released 6,000 prisoners, as arngesture of good will, which backfired onrnus militarily because many of these peoplernreappeared to face us again on thernbatriefield.rnThe third stage was the story aboutrn”ethnic cleansing.” What the pressrnignored is that many civilians, Serbs andrnMuslims, just did not want to fight andrntherefore left the area, as happens in anyrnwar. And those who left were treatedrnwell. However, “ethnic cleansing” wasrna very emotional symbol because itrnshowed that people could not live wherernthey want, which is a basic humanrnfreedom. What is interesting aboutrnthe ethnic cleansing accusations is thatrnthe American press did not mentionrnthe number of Serbian refugees—andrnthere were more Serbian refugees inrnYugoslavia than Muslim refugees inrnEurope. More interesting still is thatrnSerbs in Sarajevo did not have freedomrnof movement. The 50,000 Serbs in Sarajevo,rn29,000 Serbs in Zenica, and 25,000rnin Tuzla were ethnic hostages. Theyrnwere not able to leave these places. Andrnif you compare the situation of someonernwho is not free to relocate—this was thernsituation of my brother, who could notrnleave Sarajevo for eight months—withrnthe situation of a refugee, as I was duringrnWodd War II, the latter is easier. I dornnot mean that it is good or desirable, butrnit is easier than being an ethnic hostage.rnYou can go where you want, you can getrnhumanitarian aid, you can leave the battlefield.rnHowever, we have not seen anyrncoverage of the Serbian hostages, whichrnis propaganda in the sense that the otherrnside is not shown.rnThe fourth stage was the rape accusations.rnMedia and p.r. firms well knowrnhuman psychology and the emotionalrntriggers of the average, middle-classrnAmerican, who is more sensitive to rapernbecause of the power of the women’srnrights movement. The media circulatedrnfigures given to them by the Muslims,rn36/CHRONICLESrnrnrn