The Media War Against the Serbsrnby Negovan RajicrnIn the Yugoslav conflict, misinformation has exceeded anythingrnever witnessed during Worid War II. Television coveragernof the war has appealed to emotions and weakened our facultiesrnfor critical analysis, leaving them vulnerable tornmanipulation by opinion-makers.rnTo win any media war today, it is of prime importance to hirerna good public relations firm. Take, for example. Ruder FinnrnGlobal Affairs, which has worked for both the Muslims andrnCroats since the very beginning of the war. Its director is JamesrnHarff, who declared to Jacques Merlino, assistant editor-inchiefrnof France 2: “Our job is not to verify information. We arernnot paid to uphold any morals. Our job consists of acceleratingrnthe circulation of any information which we deem to be favorablernand to target previously selected targets.” Their role asrnpropagandists could not have been stated clearer.rnThe methods of misinformation are so numerous and variedrnthat they could provide writers with a quasi-inexhaustiblernsource of material and case studies to write about for years torncome. Let’s limit ourselves to a few examples.rnEverybody remembers the excessive news coverage thatrnaccompanied the supposed Serb bombing of the old cityrnof Dubrovnik. To help generate media attention and arouse thernpublic, a famous American diva was brought in; a few Westernrnintellectuals, in need of a cause to defend, signed petitions tornstop this barbaric destruction, while television showed the rampartsrnof the old fortress lit up in flames, which in reality were automobilerntires doused in gasoline and lit at the feet of the ramparts.rnThese images provoked a general indignation against thernSerbs, but once the battles had stopped, the press could notrnshow any photos of the ruins of the old city, and no one forcedrnNegovan Rajic is a novelist and essayist living in Montreal. Arnlonger version of this article was translated from the French byrnVlada Milojkovic and delivered as a speech at a PEN symposiumrnon censorship, held in Montreal last November.rnthe issue, because misinformation depends, with reason, onrncollective amnesia. (The only destroyed building, which ofrncourse was never reported, was the Serbian Orthodox Church,rnwhich was gutted by flames caused not by bombardment butrnrather from ground-level arson.)rnAnother method of misinformation involves self-imposedrnblackouts and omissions of events. One such example is thernCroats’ destruction of the Muslim-held part of Mostar and itsrnfamous bridge, a story which was seldom mentioned and neverrnpublicly condemned by editorialists. There is even a geographicallyrnilliterate publication in France, I’Actuel, which showed arnphoto of the old Mostar bridge and described it as having beenrndestroyed by Serb artillery in Vukovar!rnMisinformation was again a key element in the orchestrationrnof the Sarajevo massacres. The first of these, which happenedrnon May 27, 1992, in front of a bakery on Vasa Miskin street inrnSarajevo, killed 17 people and injured 150. It resulted in sanctionsrnagainst Yugoslavia, even though responsibility for thernevent was never established with certitude. General LewisrnMacKenzie, the first commander of U.N. troops in Sarajevo,rnhad this to say: “The Bosnian presidency denounced this as arnSerbian act. The Serbs talk about an explosive charge plantedrnin advance. Our soldiers [the Canadians] say that a certainrnnumber of disturbing details do not make sense. The street wasrnblocked just before the incident. Once a line up was formed,rnthe Bosnian media showed up on location but stayed at a distancernand were then able to rush to the site immediately afterrnthe attack had finished.”rnTwo years later, on February 5, 1994, a similar carnage tookrnplace, this time in the Markale market in Sarajevo. In his bookrnCasque Bleu Pour Rien, a French superior officer who wrote underrnthe pseudonym of Commandant Franchet said: “But herernalso the blue helmets refuse to confirm the thesis of a Serb shellrnand talk of a remote controlled explosive device instead. Fourrndays later, NATO passes an ultimatum to the Bosnian Serbs.”rnJANUARY 1997/25rnrnrn