Bombing of RTS - Freedom of expression, according to NATO


Darko Stoimenovski (26), technician
Nebojsa Stojanovic (27), technician
Dragorad Dragojevic (27), security guard
Ksenija Bankovic (28), video mixer
Jelica Munitlak (28), make-up artist
Dejan Markovic (30), security guard
Aleksandar Deletic (31), cameraman
Dragan Tasic (31), technician
Slavisa Stevanovic (32), producer
Sinisa Medic (33), programme designer
Ivan Stukalo (34), foreign programming specialist
Milan Joksimovic (47), security officer
Branislav Jovanovic (50), programme operator
Slobodan Jontic (54), set director
Milovan Jankovic (59), mechanic
Tomislav Mitrovic (61), programme director.

Killed on the day that NATO bombed a television station for not toeing the NATO party line.
NATO bombing of the Radio Television of Serbia headquarters

BELGRADE, April 23 (Reuters) - NATO air strikes blasted Serbian state television off the air on Friday, just hours after Belgrade offered apeace proposal to allow an "international presence" in war-torn Kosovo under U.N. auspices. Belgrade residents reported hearing a "huge explosion" at 2:04 a.m. (0004 GMT) and said NATO had hit the RTS television building, taking all channels off the air. 
"The RTS building has been hit," said one witness. "There is smoke everywhere and there are people inside the building."
NATO bombing of the Radio Television of Serbia headquarters
NATO bombing of the Radio Television of Serbia headquarters

As our current government is acting upon the saying "If you can't beat them, join them" and is likely to join futures with countries that bombed FR Yugoslavia in 1999 and actually sacrifice 20% of our territory in this integration process, let us remember this unprecedented NATO crime - the bombing of Radio Television of Serbia (RTS), The National Broadcasting Company of Serbia, which killed 16 employees and wounded many more. 
Those same countries which invest loads of money in various Non-Governmental Organizations which are allegedly propagating democracy and tolerance in Serbia, those same countries that were fully supportive of the NATO leadership's decision to bomb National Television of Serbia back in 1999.
How about hypocrisy...

Television Wars: Bombing Serb TV, by Don North
On April 23, 1999, at 2:06 a.m. Belgrade time, as NATO was preparing for its 50th anniversary celebration in Washington D.C., two cruise missiles struck the Radio Televizija Srbija (SRT)* [RTS] headquarters in Belgrade.

 About 150 civilian journalists, producers, technicians and janitors were working the night shift when the missiles hit with what NATO called "surgical precision."

The building's four stories collapsed to the ground, sandwiching offices, television equipment, transmitters and people into a pile of smoldering rubble only 15 feet high.

TV screens throughout Serbia went blank in the middle of a Houston, Texas, TV station's interview with
Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. 

Firemen rushed to the scene to remove the injured. One technician trapped by tons of concrete could be extracted only by the amputation of both legs.
At least 16 people were confirmed dead and another 19 were injured.

As the smoke and dust settled, at least 16 people were confirmed dead and another 19 were injured. But NATO's premeditated attack on a civilian media target did little to drive RTS off the air.
By daylight, alternate transmitters had been activated and Serb TV was back on the air again. That morning, a blond woman was reading the morning news and calmly placed the devastation of RTSseveral minutes down the lineup of top news stories.

Few foreign journalists had believed that NATO actually would bomb RTS  But the Serbs did -- and were prepared.
The Clinton administration and NATO made no apologies for the civilian dead.
"Serb TV is as much a part of Milosevic's murder machine as his military," said Pentagon spokesman Kenneth Bacon. "The media is one of the pillars of Milosevic's power machine. It is right up there with security forces and the military."

The reaction to the RTS bombing was muted within many U.S. news organizations. Elsewhere, however, journalists and humanitarian organizations, including Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders, condemned the strike against RTS.

Notable was a terse letter to NATO's Secretary General Javier Solana from the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists:
 "NATO's decision to target civilian broadcast facilities not only increases the danger for reporters now working in Yugoslavia but permanently jeopardizes all journalists as noncombatants in international conflicts as provided for in the Geneva Conventions.

“It represents an apparent change in NATO policy only days after your spokesman Jamie Shea offered assurances that civilian targets would be avoided."
From Belgrade, the Association of Independent Electronic Media in Yugoslavia, a leading voice of Serbian anti-Milosevic sentiment, also condemned the attack.

"History has shown that no form of repression, particularly the organized and premeditated murder of journalists, can prevent the flow of information, nor can it prevent the public from choosing its own sources of information," the groups said.

The New York Times quoted a senior Serb journalist saying he thought NATO had crossed an ambiguous moral line: "The people who were there were just doing their jobs. They have no influence on the content or on Milosevic. I hate Serb television. [But] we can differentiate between big lies and little ones." [NYT, April 24, 1999]

Yugoslav officials said NATO was trying to destroy the free marketplace of ideas and insure that just one side's "propaganda" could be disseminated.
There is no doubt that RTS was a propaganda organ for Milosevic and his regime. Since the NATO bombing campaign began on March 24, 1999, RTS also had deeply offended NATO's sensibilities with its graphics.

The NATO symbol was regularly shown turning into a Nazi swastika and U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright grew Dracula teeth in front of burning buildings.
While highlighting the suffering from NATO air attacks, RTS ignored the tens of thousands of Albanian refugees fleeing Kosovo with their tales of rape and execution. RTS repeatedly showed video clips of old scenes: Milosevic meeting Serbian church leaders, Russian envoys and the Kosovo Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugova.

But the station also broadcast to the world dramatic images of destruction caused by the NATO bombing and gave credible estimates of civilian casualties. RTS scooped the world press when it disclosed that a NATO aircraft had killed scores of Kosovar refugees in a bombing attack.
NATO bombing of the Radio Television of Serbia headquarters
After NATO bombing of the Radio Television of Serbia headquarters

After RTS broadcast the scenes of the civilian carnage, NATO flip-flopped through the next 24-hour news cycle. NATO's first response was: "We didn't do it, the Serbs did it." That changed to "we did bomb the column, but the Serbs killed the refugees."[again lies]

Finally, NATO accepted fault and apologized. Still, NATO's glib cockney spokesman, Jamie Shea, pushed the edges of Orwellian doublespeak when he declared that the pilot had "dropped his bombs in good faith."
Later, NATO played an audio-tape supposedly of the pilot in question. But it turned out that the recorded pilot was involved in a completely different operation. The real tape was withheld.
NATO bombing of the Radio Television of Serbia headquarters
After NATO bombing of the Radio Television of Serbia headquarters

The RTS bombing, however, was no mistake. Internally, NATO had been debating for weeks whether or not to destroy Serb television.
Shea even suggested that the network might be spared if it would begin broadcasting at least six hours of Western news reports reflecting NATO's views.
Ironically, RTS had been broadcasting many of NATO's pronouncements, albeit focusing on the misstatements and contradictions.
Still, though the bombing of RTS may have been aimed at the Milosevic propaganda machine, it also set back American and other foreign TV efforts to document the siege of Belgrade. Most of the video broadcast on international TV showing the results of bombing raids was obtained from RTS.

Even before the RTS attack, NATO's struggle to control the information flow had riled many leading Western media outlets.
On April 9, 1999, editors and executives of seven major U.S. news organizations -- including The New York Times, The Washington Post and CNN -- protested to Defense Secretary William Cohen and urged him to loosen controls on information about the air strikes.

"Detailed information about the allied operation is vital to an informed public discussion of this matter of national interest," the letter said. "On many days, the state-controlled Yugoslav media has been more specific about NATO targets than the United States or NATO."

Historically, of course, the U.S. military has always been uncomfortable with American journalists reporting from behind enemy lines. [Iraq, Libya, Syria] Many senior U.S. officers are veterans of the Vietnam War and believe that American journalists should tailor their reporting to support the cause.

In that vein, Harrison Salisbury, the famous war correspondent for The New York Times was hailed for his reporting from the siege of Leningrad in World War II, when the Soviet Union was allied with the United States.

But when Salisbury became the first correspondent from a major U.S. newspaper to report from Hanoi during the Vietnam War, he was denounced as disloyal.

In December 1966, Salisbury wrote, "Whatever the explanation, one can see United States planes are dropping an enormous weight of explosives on purely civilian targets." His work earned him the nickname "Ho Chi Salisbury" at the Pentagon.

CNN's Peter Arnett smuggled a satellite phone into Baghdad and reported live during the Persian Gulf War. His stories included moving first-person accounts of civilian targets destroyed by U.S. air attacks. In Washington, Arnett was subjected to insults as traitorous "Baghdad Pete."

Some similar tensions -- though not as severe -- have surfaced in the current war for Kosovo. In the case of the RTS attack, however, U.S. officials were careful not to worsen relations with the American news media by accidentally killing U.S. correspondents.

In mid-April, about a week before the cruise missiles were launched, the White House reportedly tipped off the CNN brass about the impending attack of RTS headquarters. CNN bosses called Belgrade and ordered CNN’s people out of the RTS building where they had been preparing TV reports for a month.

Other reporters, however, did not get the word, or chose not to believe it. The London Independent's Robert Fisk, an intrepid Western reporter, said he was invited to the doomed building for coffee and orange juice by Goran Matic, a Serb government official. Matic was convinced that the TV studios were next on NATO's target list.
"Yet, oddly, we didn't take him seriously," Fisk reported. "Even when the air raid siren sounded, I stayed for another coffee. … Surely NATO wouldn't waste its bombs on this tiresome station with its third-rate propaganda and old movies, let alone kill its staff. Once you kill people because you don't like what they say, you change the rules of war."
Monument WHY? Queastion for USA/NATO...

The content of RTS broadcasts also was more complicated than NATO has asserted.
Besides serving as a Serb government voice, RTS was a center of cultural identity for the Serb nation. With the destruction of RTS headquarters, thousands of tapes and films have now been crushed to rubble, videos that once helped tell the Serbs and their children who they are -- and provide some small comfort in their difficult lives.

Continue reading at Consortium news
* SRT stands for Serbian Radio Television, in Serbia we call it RTS or radio Television of Serbia

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