Media on Mladic: Parallel Universes

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Balkan Investigating Reporting Network (BIRN) has presented on Tuesday its publication “Spotlight on Mladic: Villian or Celebrity?”, which analyses how the media in the region reported on the arrest and trial of Ratko Mladic, the former Bosnian Serb army commander.

The book, published with the support from the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, concluded that the media in the former Yugoslav countries presented these events from different angles.

It was pointed out at the promotion that media reports from Bosnia and Herzegovina reflected the entity division of the country, while in Serbia, Mladic, charged with genocide and other crimes in Bosnia and Herzegovina, was painted as a celebrity.

The media in Croatia focused on the disappointment that the Hague Tribunal did not charge Mladic with crimes committed in that country.

“It is sad we don’t share the same views and I think we are trapped in parallel universes which are completely different,” said Gordana Igric, the publication’s editor.

Marija Ristic, the journalist who analysed the media reports in Serbia, described them as trivial and that more attention was dedicated to what Mladic was doing at the time of his arrest or the treatment he had in the Hague Tribunal than the crimes he is accused of.

“That kind of reporting is actually the testament to the unwillingness of Serbia and its citizens to face their past,” said Ristic.  

Erna Mackic, who analysed the texts in Bosnia and Herzegovina, said that the journalist reports in the entity media reflected comments made by politicians during the arrest and Mladic’s trial.

“In the Federation, people were delighted, while in Republika Srpska it was said that the court should be left alone to establish whether Mladic was guilty of committing crimes in Bosnia and Herzegovina or not, also neglecting statements from victims,” said Mackic.

Speaking at the presentation of the book, Boris Pavelic, journalist from Croatia, said that the Hague Tribunal was condemned as the worst court possible up until November 16, 2012, when it acquitted the Croatian generals, Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac,  becoming the best court ever.

Christian Axboe Nielsen, a historian, talked about the issues that media failed to deal with, as well as the Hague Tribunal itself, emphasising that the court’s achievements would not matter historically if the national courts did not resume its work.

According to Nerma Jelacic, the spokesperson of the Hague Tribunal, the results of the work and efficiency of this court would be best perceived from the distance of around ten years.