Belgrade under the bombs

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 68 – June 1, 1999 

Originally published here.

Serbo-Croatian version here.


“The lack of empathy and solidarity with the 11 million citizens of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia whose society is being destroyed is as amazing as it is deplorable. Remember when people of culture, science, politics, media and humanism flocked to Sarajevo when it was under siege? Where are they now?

Journalists flock to Macedonia and Albania – admittedly for very good reasons – and they flock to NATO’s well-staged press briefings. But seeing for oneself what it means to be the object of the worst military, economic and social destruction in Europe since 1945 seems, remarkably, not to be as good a reason,” says TFF director Jan Oberg who has just visited Serbia under the bombs.

Where are those who believe Yugoslavia is a dictatorship? Supporting fellow human beings suffering under dictatorship is a noble reason to go but those around the world who hold this view stay away. Where are the human rights activists when numerous human rights are being violated by NATO? Where is the sympathy with innocent citizens who endure the systematic destruction of a European society and capital in the name of Western civilization?

So much for humanism, intellectualism and civil courage at the end of the 20th century. In spite of the war, it is perfectly possible to go there and freely meet anyone you like. I did that,” says Dr. Oberg. “It is mind-boggling that even intellectuals seem to be able to hold only two categories in their head at a time: if you are anti-NATO’s bombings, you must automatically be pro-Milosevic or pro-Serb. Or, if you go there, you support the regime and is disloyal to the West. I am afraid that those who hide behind such banal dichotomies are responsible for a gross civilisational injustice done to every and all citizens in today’s Yugoslavia.

I believe it is possible to be against all the violence – Yugoslav/Serbia’s, that of the Albanians and NATO’s. None of them will help solve the original problem of mistrust between Serbs and Albanians. All of them have made the situation worse. And I believe it should be possible to recognise and respect the human suffering of all sides – that of the Albanians, the Serbs and that of every other group in all of Serbia and Montenegro. [Read more…]

Support free media and education in Serbia now

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 51 – November 23, 1998

Originally published here.


“The law on information, on the universities and the prepared law on NGOs should be strongly opposed by all international organisations, governments and NGOs.”

Jiri Dienstbier, Special Rapporteur of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights


“Serbian authorities commit gross human rights violations through new draconian laws that will further undermine free media, education and civil society in Serbia. Given its seriousness, we have heard deplorably few and low-voiced protests from top diplomats, politicians, fellow intellectuals and media people in the Europe and the US. Dienstbier’s is an important exception” says TFF’s director Jan Oberg.

The situation is appalling. After media and education, NGOs will probably be targeted. People in Serbia are in a double cage – that constructed by their own authorities and that constructed by the international community since 1991. Just look at how the Kosovo conflict is now “managed” through the Milosevic-Holbrooke agreement and you’ll see how the two cages reinforce each other. The losers? Ordinary citizens – like in Bosnia under Dayton.

All citizens of Serbia – including the 650.000 forgotten refugees from Bosnia and Croatia – have suffered enough inside these cages since 1991. Shuttle diplomats, NATO, OSCE, EU and the US display a profound and disastrous lack of any strategy for civil society support. Much more must therefore be done by European peoples’ organisations everywhere to show solidarity with and assist independent media, education and movements in Serbia – and urgently,” says Dr. Oberg.

This is the background. In May this year, the Government of Serbia passed a new university law without consulting universities, teachers or students. It effectively reduces academic independence, the autonomy of academia. The government now controls the appointment and firing of professors, deans and university governing boards and may close faculties. The law further limits [Read more…]