The Global Beat Web site became a place to which Balkan journalists could send reports about their personal and professional experiences in the midst of covering the crisis in Kosovo. This site, which is a resource service for journalists covering international news, is administered by the Global Reporting Network, a program at New York University’s Center for War, Peace, and the News Media. Here are excerpts from some of these dispatches: “Escape from Pristina: Letter from Skopje,” by Gjeraqhina Tuhina, a correspondent for the London-based Institute for War and Peace Reporting. She began her coverage from Pristina on the first night of the NATO air strikes.
“…it didn’t become real until they came to our house. By then, I was desperate to leave—I was frightened and wanted to live. But I still had some kind of hope. I could never imagine myself and my parents just walking like that to the station, with our dignity and pride destroyed, losing everything.
“It was a ‘normal,’ quiet day. We had three other families living with us—15 people crammed into our small flat. We had become an extended family. It was lunchtime. My mother was preparing a meal of meat and rice. Then we heard a commotion on the floor below and we knew.
“I wouldn’t say they were polite but they weren’t abusive. We were surprised. There was no shouting, no pointing of machine guns. Four young soldiers in the dark blue uniforms of the Ministry of the Interior just knocked hard on the door and said, ‘You have to go. You have 15 minutes.’ The soldiers waited patiently. We quietly moved to pick up some things. My computer was still on, so I sent off one last, short Email to say I couldn’t file a story that day: ‘Pray for me,’ I wrote.” “War Propaganda in Serbia,” Anonymous. The author is a media expert in Belgrade, whose name was withheld to protect against the extreme penalties threatened against independent writers by the Yugoslav government.
“News programs are designed to show the illegitimacy of NATO aggression on Yugoslavia, the unity of the Serbian people in resisting the enemy, and Serbian invincibility.
“The news media have numerous ways to describe most Western nations: killers; death-disseminators; fascists; dictators; criminals; villains; bandits; vandals; barbarians; gangsters; vampires; cowards; perverts; lunatics, scum and trash. The West wants to destroy the small but honorable, dignified and freedom-loving Serbian nation.
“This unprecedented barrage of hateful speech is directed against all NATO nations but especially against the United States. (‘Only a dead American is a good American.’) It is also combined with an almost mystical elevation of the Serbian people: They have hate, we have love; they have rockets, we have heart; there are no computers in the world which can calculate the depth of the soul and the width of the heart of the Serbian people fighting for their homeland….
“All Serbian television networks downplay the issue of Albanian refugees. There have been no pictures of the thousands of Albanian refugees fleeing Kosovo. The ‘Kosovo humanitarian catastrophe’ is referred to as an issue either made up or overemphasized by Western propaganda.
“Any coverage of the Kosovo refugee situation shows both Serbs and Albanians fleeing to Belgrade and being helped by the authorities here. Reports from Kosovo are designed to directly refute the Western claims about the Serbian policy of ethnic cleansing.”
“Letter from Pristina,” by Dukagjin Gorani, who is Editor of Pristina’s KD Times, the English-language edition of KOHA Ditore. He is also a reporter for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting’s Balkan Crisis Report.
“There is barely any information about what’s going on…. Tuesday [March 24] was the last day of publication for KOHA Ditore, an Albanian-language newspaper here, as well as my own newspaper, the English-language KD Times. KOHA Ditore had been fined for publishing a public statement by KLA leader Hashim Thaci and ordered to shut down by Yugoslav authorities. Last week, three other Albanian-language papers were also fined and closed. A few days ago, I was beaten by police outside my newspaper’s offices.
“But frankly, in the present situation, newspapers are a luxury. The time for such communications is finished. There is no Albanian-language electronic media in Kosovo. Any kind of news that you can get is like a breath of fresh air.
“Now there are different priorities: How to protect yourself; how to find shelter in the coming days. For the present, we are thinking of fundamental survival, of running for our lives.”
“Letter from Belgrade,” by Petar Lukovic, a columnist for Feral Tribune, Editor of the Belgrade cultural magazine XZ, and a writer for Balkan Crisis Report.
“Since the attacks began, most of Belgrade’s television stations have abandoned their own programming and merely rebroadcast state television, RTS channel one. RTS, an infamous nationalistic stronghold, was one of Milosevic’s most potent weapons during his previous wars. Now it stirs up national feelings through unbearable displays of patriotism. There is absolutely no news of what’s happening in Kosovo, the province Serbia supposedly cares so much about. There is no concrete information on what damage has been done by the bombing. There is not even any news about what’s going on in the Serbian and Yugoslav governments.
“Instead, it broadcasts hard-core propaganda, celebrating ‘the firm, dignified politics of Slobodan Milosevic.’ NATO nations are now ‘fascist aggressors.’ The President of the United States now has a range of new titles: ‘Killer Clinton,’ ‘Satanic Clinton,’ ‘Scumbag Clinton,’ ‘Worm Clinton,’ ‘Mental case and sexual deviant Clinton,’ and best of all, ‘Adolph Clinton, the biggest criminal in the history of the world.’
“The bombing has also destroyed the last vestige of the independent print media. Only government-controlled publications are issued on a regular basis.
“Some people talk about how the bombing has created a sense of wartime solidarity, with friends and neighbors coming together to cope with adversity. But if you’re like me and tend to express your opinions about the regime, the media and the general insanity of Serbia, it’s impossible to get through the day without getting in a furious row. Your nerves end up being completely shot—a particular problem since cigarettes are not available.
“At least the telephone lines, in general, are working, and Internet links continue. This makes the war even more unreal: One can communicate with the United States, a country with which we have broken off diplomatic relations, but it is very difficult to call a friend 100 kilometers south of Belgrade. Not to mention Kosovo, about which we know nothing.”