If the Western press covered this from Macedonia…

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 128 – August 28, 2001

Originally published here.

 

Few citizens can go to conflict regions to develop an understanding and form an opinion. Most of us rely on the dailies, the radio and television. So, the media stand between the events and each of us. What we obtain is not necessarily reality but an image of it, a part of it, some aspects and angles rather than others. In principle, it can hardly be otherwise.

But what if the coverage is systematically biased and what if there is a tendency in what is not covered?

Once again there is a Balkan crisis and once again some of us who have been on the ground for about ten years ask: do we have a free press on which those at home can safely rely?

Here follow some 20 examples of what could have featured prominently in the headlines about Macedonia the last few months. Most citizens are likely not to have heard much about them in the mainstream media and may, therefore, not have thought of these events and their implications:

– the story of Americans working with KLA/NLA and investigate why NATO, in contravention of its mandate in Macedonia, evacuated KLA/NLA soldiers with American advisers and equipment out of Aracinovo…

– why NATO/KFOR and the UN in Kosovo turned a blind eye to KLA/NLA operations in the American sector and the demilitarised zone…

– which governments, agencies, mercenary companies and arms dealers have supplied KLA/NLA with weapons since 1993…

– what kind of misinformation and propaganda campaigns the press itself is the object of by NATO and others, e.g. why it suddenly begins to call Macedonians “Slavs” or “Slav Macedonians,” something they have never been called before. Or why Macedonians are frequently called “nationalists” while you never hear that word about Albanians with guns in their hands…

– the suffering and socio-economic deprivation of Macedonians and not only the Albanians…

– the question of whether EU foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, the S-G of NATO at the time when it bombed Yugoslavia, and NATO S-G Lord Robertson, then British secretary of defence, are personally responsible for the de-stabilisation of Macedonia…

– why we get no conflict journalism but only war reporting and whether there was any ethnic hatred in Macedonia that could have sparked off a war had Western countries not meddled in the affairs of Macedonia…

– the story of why one of the best missions in the history of the United Nations, UNPREDEP, was forced out of Macedonia in 1999 to allow NATO to (mis)use the country for its own “peaceful” aims…

– why the UN’s Mr. Haekkerup in Pristina, the highest authority in Kosovo, has not been asked why 46,000 NATO/KFOR soldiers in Kosovo did not actually disarm the KLA in spite of the fact that it was stated officially in autumn 1999 that it was disarmed and declared illegal…

– how European politicians feel about the fact that the August 13 Ohrid “Peace” Agreement is completely one-sided, demands no guarantees or obligations of the Albanians (except handing in some of their weapons) and rewards only the Albanian extremists who unilaterally turned the conflict into war…

– the issue of how better human rights can be promoted by KLA/NLA killing, ethnically cleaning villages and refusing for months to meet with the press until its political leader in front of cameras declared himself pro-peace sitting under NATO, US, EU and Albanian flags…

– why KLA/NLA has been permitted to commit two international aggressions, one into Southern Serbia and the one into Macedonia, and are called ‘armed thugs’ by NATO and EU and maintain de facto Western support and have been a negotiations partner of NATO and are being be offered amnesty…

– why the EU, NATO and the United States have worked together to prevent the state of Macedonia from exercising its right to self-defence, according the Charter of the United Nations Article 51, by threatening to withdraw economic aid if it fought back “disproportionately” when KLA occupied the country bit by bit…

– the fact that Macedonia was never paid any compensation for putting up with ten years of Western sanctions against its main trade partner, Yugoslavia, and was also never compensated for NATO’s turning it into a combined refugee camp and military base…

– why KLA/NLA’s leadership has not simply been arrested by NATO and the UN long ago – they have the authority to do so – and why Albanian leaders are seldom mentioned in relation to the Hague Tribunal…

– the relations between certain hard-line Albanian leaders and the trade in drugs, women, cigarettes and other black market dealings that supply customers in the region, including international staff, and other European markets, and provides most of the cash with which KLA/NLA obtains its arms…

– the wider (real) interests of Western countries in the Balkans, such as oil in the Caucasus, geo-strategic issues, the US Bondsteel base and its function in Kosovo, the containment of Russia, the violent spreading of the market economy, expansion of NATO – rather than just printing the noble human rights-democracy-peace-stabilisation gobbledygook of powerful people…

– how Mr. Haekkerup, former Danish minister of defence and responsible for his country’s actual bombing of Yugoslavia, could be given the top position as peacemaker in Kosovo (having had no international mission before) and why it is a Danish general, Gunnar Lange, who now heads NATO’s “Essential Harvest” mission in spite of the fact that Denmark contributes no troops to it…

– why General Lange grossly underestimates the military strength of the KLA/NLA by requesting it to hand in only 3,300 weapons to be “disarmed” and “disbanded”…

– how it comes that NATO, after two days in Macedonia, sides with the KLA/NLA, the aggressor, when it comes to the estimate of their numbers of weapons – and not with the legitimate government of the country (whose estimate is at least 60,000)…

– the reasons that General Lange and NATO spokesman, Daniel Speckard, suddenly state again and again that if the Macedonian government does not accept what NATO says and does, “the alternative is clear: the alternative is war” – an argument for which there is only two appropriate words: untruth and blackmail…

– why a West (media and decision-makers) that allegedly cares so much for minorities and refugees does virtually nothing to focus on and help 600,000 refugees in Yugoslavia, innocent ordinary citizens of Serb origin driven out of Croatia, Bosnia-Hercegovina and Kosovo…

– the real reasons why the United Nations has not been involved in the last six months in Macedonia; it is a classical case for the UN Security Council, and the UN is the organisation that knows this country best. Why did Kofi Annan keep quiet? Why was the issue of Macedonia not taken up in the Security Council? Why has no one mentioned the perfectly obvious idea of setting up a UN peace-keeping mission in Macedonia?

If the major media generally do not address issue like these, can we say they are free in this case?

Should we see them as complicit in power politics, as servile and politically correct?

Do Western media manage to preserve their integrity and critical investigative capacities when their own governments go to make peace but in reality make war?

Does ‘free media’ in reality mean that you can be as biased as you please – or have been advised to be by powerful circles?

The usual argument is that there are individual journalists, reporters, columnists and editors who actually address issues like these. That is true. But unfortunately they remain a tiny minority in the margins of the generalised media picture on the basis of which the great majority of citizens form their opinions.

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