Kamala o Kosovu

Ninoslav Randjelovic RSS / 19.05.2009. u 15:58

Ljudi, ako procitate ovaj dugacak post (studentski rad moje cerke), hvala ! 

Mozda vam se ucini da se pravim vazan i da ga zato ovde nudim mojim posetiocima. U pravu ste, verovatno. Ipak, ne znam zasto, ali verujem da mi necete zameriti. Necu ni ja vama zameriti ako vam je ova tema dosadna.


Kamala Randjelovic:  Intro to Media Studies (for Professor Deborah Levitt)

"Commodified" or "civilized" Kosovo ? 

Arjun Appadurai’s essay “Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy”, addresses the tensions between cultural homogenization and the heterogenization of culture, as exemplified by the ‘Americanization’ or ‘Commodification’ of cultures. He continues the work of Benedict Anderson’s notion of nations as "imagined communities".

In this paper, I am using Appadurai’s position as a jumping off point to discuss the Western media’s impact on the provision of information about incidents of genocide, specifically those committed against the non-Albanian civilian population in Kosovo.

Concurrently, the paper will illustrate how Kosovo was “commodified” to fit a "model" needed by the Western media. In doing so, the Kosovo situation has became shattered as pieces of a broken mirror reflecting the most basic biases about Serbs and Eastern Europe at its worst. What is most concerning is the negative impact the Western media had in its attempts to "simplify/modify" the situation in the region.

Often when the international community does intervene in some region of the world, the world media focuses on a "perpetrator of some act of terror" as the "cause" of the intervention. This creates very "specific" reports of the situation which rarely delves into the complicated layers of issues that often precede many horrific events. In a similar vein, a closer examination of the situation in Kosovo elicits a convergence of many legitimate concerns of both Serbs and Kosovo Albanians; most of them overlooked by the popular media. 

Additionally, the same media coverage frequently facilitated a continuation of an overarching enmity between Western and Eastern powers. Although the cold war is over, Russia continues to have interests in Kosovo that are linked to cultural beliefs (the Orthodox Church) and strong sense of Slavic identification with their Eastern neighbor. The West, on the other hand, continues to view Kosovo through the lens of a tinderbox where the Kosovo Albanians were the only subjects of “ethnic cleansing” in the region.

Appadurai writes that, "In general, separatist, transnational movements, including those which have included terror in their methods, exemplify nations in search of states ‘imagined communities’ which seek to create states of their own or everywhere carve pieces out of existing states."

As nationalism sprouted throughout the republics of former Yugoslavia, the international community and media chose to support the individual republics in their quest for independence. They isolated Serbia, and Slobodan Milosevic, as the main culprits in the war. Claims of various political motives were seen as influencing his actions. Some authors claim that "It is almost unbelievable that that several sovereign states in Western Europe, ignoring basic principles of International law and the charter of the United Nations took it upon themselves to speed up the destruction of another Sovereign European State (Dragnich, 187)". Others argue that the despotic and brutal regime of Slobodan Milosevic was the main reason why the international community saw him as the main obstacle in reaching a democratic and civilized solution of the Yugoslavian crisis.

During Milosevic’s rise to power, the threat of Albanian nationalism in Kosovo affected other “ethno-regional problems in the country” (Cohen, 47). The conflict in Kosovo became a catalyst for the separation of the other republics from Serbia. However, the tensions between the Albanians and the Serbs during the Kosovo crisis in early 1990s also marked the focus of Serbs being seen as perpetrators. Milosevic’s brutality in confronting Albanian terrorists and independence activists eventually brought him the title in the media as the “Butcher of the Balkans”.

The conflicts between the Albanians and Serbs in Kosovo led to the NATO intervention against Yugoslavia, (March-June 1999), in order to stop Slobodan Milosevic from committing genocide against the Albanian majority in the Kosovo region. Since 1999, Kosovo has been under international military (KFOR) and police (UNMIK) control, even though it is still considered as a part of Serbia by the Belgrade Government.

In a sense the mere intervention and presence of NATO and KFOR troops reflects the features of globalization. Utilizing NATO, world powers choose to intervene in a territory that is not their nation, but could impact its nationhood. This could be considered a variation on Appadurai’s ideascope as world powers impose their ideologies through military force and presence.

Perhaps the political decisions by the international community to go against the regime of Slobodan Milosevic became the basis for many cases of drastic media manipulation (even by the most sophisticated international media) that had one purpose only, to portray Serbs as brutal murderers and to, therefore, justify the political actions and military intervention that has been undertaken there.

A Pulitzer-prize winning article written by a New York Times journalist was in fact, an interview with a Bosnian Serb, confessing to murders that were false. The article actually referred to events that did not happen. “The centerpiece of Burns article was a seven hour entry with a captured Bosnian Serb- Borislav Herak- who in graphic statements confessed to dozens of murders including eight involving rape”. This one interview was the basis on which the media and the New York Times described actions of many Serbs during the Balkan wars; “interview was described by the New York Times as offering insight into the way thousands of others have died in Bosnia” (Julia Gorin).

However, more that three years after the publication of Burn’s story, the New York Times described Herak as ‘slightly retarded'. Herak was reported as retracting his confession. He claimed guards had beaten it out of him.

It is a disturbing fact that while actively reporting about the violence against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo prior to NATO intervention; the world media coverage of the suffering of ethnic Serbs and other non-Albanians in Kosovo after the NATO intervention has been poor and sporadic. Thus, it can be argued that the choice to mislead the public with false information is just as bad as the choice not to inform the world of the suffering of specific ethnic group. It is even more so regarding those regional conflicts where the international community has become fully involved. Here the Appadurai's "mediascopes" seems to have gone seriously off-track.

Western media’s coverage of a massive outbreak of violence in Kosovo during March of 2004, is indeed a case study in bias. A mere five years ago, (March 17-19, 2004) Kosovo was a war zone for three days. Ethnic Albanians rampaged throughout Kosovo, killing 30, injuring over 800, destroying hundreds of Serbian homes and KFOR/UMNIK vehicles, burning 30 Orthodox Christian churches and forcing all non-Albanians out of the province. Some 51,000 men took part in the orchestrated three-day campaign; some of them part of the UN-funded “Kosovo Protection Corps,” which consists primarily of former KLA (Kosovo Liberation Army) terrorists.

NATO troops, being overwhelmingly outnumbered, did nothing to stop the Albanian rampage. At the heart of the Albanian attack UNMIK spokesman Derek Chappell stated: "This is a very large, comprehensive uprising… We are getting reports in all the time, from all over Kosovo. Wherever there is a Serbian population there is Albanian action against them… These are well-organized extremists leading these attacks..." (Chappell, Derek).

The Kosovo human rights Ombudsman, Marek Nowicki added that "there exists the intent to cleanse this land from the presence of all Serbs." These testimonies did not prevent the New York Times, LA Times, Washington Post, and the Boston Globe from referring to these attacks as “clashes.” Not one of them decided to mention that the Serbian enclaves, villages and cities in Kosovo were completely defenseless in the face of the armed and coordinated campaign of violence. The BBC called the situation "inter-ethnic clashes" and "protests" by Albanians. (http://www.princeton.edu/~dands/editorial/kosovo)

Many commentators chose to interpret the cleansing by explaining that “the violence reflected a growing impatience among Kosovo’s Albanian majority about the future of the province.” The suggestion was that the Serbs were responsible for the culmination of this “impatience.” On the other hand, the suggestion that KFOR and UNMIK are to blame, given the fact that the Albanian mobs attacked KFOR and UNMIK personnel never seemed to cross anyone’s mind, despite the identical logic behind the two suggestions.

Another interesting example is David Phillips of the Council on Foreign Relations. He ran an op-ed in the L.A. Times in which he explained that he saw the Pogrom as an example of “mutual recrimination” which was a result of U.S. failure to “remove an issue that fuels Serbian nationalism.” Albanian nationalism is apparently, not as relevant to driving Albanians to committing bloodshed. (http://www.princeton.edu/~dands/editorial/kosovo)

Perhaps the most irresponsible media contribution was the insistence on the “Drowned Albanian Boys” story as a cause of the violence. Fitim Veseli, a local Albanian boy, first came up with the tale. Without much inquiry, a Kosovo Albanian TV station ran the story: “Serbs chase a group of Albanian boys into the river Ibar the day before the attacks, where three of them drowned in the strong currents.” As it fits the U.S.’s “Serbian aggression” scheme, all western agencies and wire services accepted the account and repeated it incessantly, being sure to include it with every report of Serbs being killed or Orthodox Monasteries being burned. The Daily Telegraph had even used the phrase “retaliatory drowning” while the Washington Post described the boys as “martyrs” at the day of their funeral. In all, no one seemed to doubt their deaths as a justification for the Albanian aggression. However, on April 30, 2004 the "Drowned Albanian Boys" story was officially disproved. The UN concluded that there was no evidence for the story whatsoever and UNMIK report blamed the "reckless and sensationalist" media reporting for sparking the violence. Nevertheless, the New York Times spared one hundred words for this development, while the Washington Post ignored it altogether. (http://www.princeton.edu/~dands/editorial/kosovo).

In order to find accurate and well-documented information regarding the events during the March Pogrom, one must search for independent journalists and documentary filmmakers. According to UNMIK Media Monitor, Ninoslav Randjelovic, an independent filmmaker from Belgrade, was the only one who noted with his camera the tragic events taking place during March Pogrom “ this material was shown in Europe and in the USA and this is the only extensive video record of the humanitarian catastrophe in Kosovo that exploded in March”. (http://www.unmikonline.org/press/2004/mon/may/lmm170504.pdf)

Randjelovic is one of those few individuals who have been closely following this issue and he has made 24 documentaries and hundreds of TV reports covering the Kosovo crisis for the last 12 years. Even though the Kosovo crisis has mostly been seen as a political issue, he claims that the main goal of his work does not have anything to do with politics - "My goal has always been to make the wish of these innocent victims of terror, recorded in my films, come true - to actually be seen by as many people as possible all over the world, so that their tragedy could at least have some deeper meaning or even a purpose of helping prevent similar things to happen to others and, thus, saving others from going through the same tragedy and brutal loss." (http://www.mail-archive.com/serbiannewsnetwork@yahoogroups.com/msg02040.html)

A several DVD editions of his films on Kosovo crisis have been released in the USA and have been distributed and presented at the major academic and political institutions (www.daysmadeoffear.com) and have received favorable comments from many experts on this topic as well as from the general public. Films have also raised awareness about how little of this important information has been shown in the world media. “I cannot recall seeing any of the horrifying footage on this DVD on American television…I doubt whether CNN has ever extended any coverage to the killings of Serbs” writes one Greek professor. (http://www.greeknewsonline.com/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=4762&mode=thread&order=0&thold=0

These films also raise doubts that the information that covers suffering of the Serbs in Kosovo might have been largely left out from the world media because of political reasons - “ All of this is not going to be shown on American television or on other US media which continues to give Bill Clinton, Madeleine Albright, Richard Holbrook, Wesley Clark and Samuel Berger a pass for their destructive war on Yugoslavia” (http://www.greeknewsonline.com/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=4762&mode=thread&order=0&thold=0).

Furthermore, what is generally seen as important in cases of other war-ravaged regions, somehow looses the importance and media relevance when it comes down to destructions of the Serbian cultural heritage in Kosovo region. "The same US media, which was appalled by the Taliban’s destruction of the 2,000-year-old Buddhist statues, has nothing to say about the remarkable Serbian Orthodox Churches and Monasteries which have stood since the period preceding the Ottoman conquests, and which are being systematically destroyed in Kosovo." (http://www.greeknewsonline.com/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=4762&mode=thread&order=0&thold=0). However, even though

Even though, Randjelovic’s films have received several awards at the international film festivals and have been presented at the major academic and political institutions worldwide, the Government of Serbia has not been interested in using this material to launch an organized media campaign. Perhaps, it is because this independent author and non-political activist has been openly critical not only of the international media coverage of Kosovo crisis, but even more so of the Serbian media and diplomacy for having "failed so miserably to acknowledge Serbs in Kosovo as human beings, and to be able, at least, to document and publicly witness their demise." A prominent author, Professor Noam Chomsky, has offered this explanation: “It is indeed surprising that the Serbian government and media have been so reluctant to make this material (Randjelovic’s films about Kosovo crisis) public. Perhaps that has to do with their hope to curry favor with the West.”. (http://www.mail-archive.com/serbiannewsnetwork@yahoogroups.com/msg02040.html)

However, pretending in the media that the international community has achieved its mission in the region is to mock the 250,000 non-Albanians driven out of Kosovo since 1999, as well other victims of terror and crime in Kosovo. Mr. Bradshaw (former Deputy for UN General Secretary in Kosovo) has indicated indicated few years ago that while there had been some success in the UN administration of Kosovo there were still three major failures:

1. Failure to instill a confidence of security in minorities, particularly Serbs. 2. Failure to repatriate Serbs to Kosovo 3. Failure to create a functioning market economy. (http://www.rfcnet.org/pdfs/KosovoWhitePaper.pdf)

According to a BBC report in 2006, Kosovo used to feel like a colony of Serbia, but nowadays it feels like a colony of the international community. NATO troops patrol the streets and keep the Albanians and Serbs apart; the UN is everywhere… Serbs are scattered in small communities throughout the territory, except in northern Kosovo where the most of the Kosovo Serbs remain.... With the prospect of Kosovo’s independence from Serbia, Serbs remaining in Kosovo are worried for their safety and in case that independence is granted to Kosovo Albanians they might flee into Serbia proper. This decision may well be made this year. After that, no one can be sure whether Kosovo will be peaceful or not... (http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/em/fr//2/hi/programmes/newsnight/4972782.stm).

Kosovo declared independence on February 17th, 2008. However, Serbs living in the region have still not been granted their basic human rights. The 250,000 Serbs expelled from Kosovo since 1999, have not returned to live and work in Kosovo. More than one hundred Orthodox churches and monasteries that were destroyed have still not been rebuilt.

Therefore, even though the Serbs have often been portrayed by the media as the most problematic factor in Yugoslavia’s civil wars as well as in Kosovo’s conflict, it is now up to the international community to demonstrate its ability to come up with civilized solution of the Kosovo crisis.

Perhaps, the best way to do it is to have better media coverage of the actual reality of Kosovo and inform general public more accurately even about the most “politically incorrect” facts, such as suffering of one ethnic minority (Serbs) in Kosovo today. Only by doing so can the international community hope to reach a civilized, i.e. a truly universal, just and a long lasting solution for the Kosovo crisis.

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