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Bósnia, uma cobertura fraudulenta

Por John Bosnitch em 05/07/1997 na edição 25


O texto abaixo foi publicado no site 60 Great Conspiracies of All Times e nos chegou por intermédio do jornalista Leão Serva, a quem agradecemos. Trata da fraudulenta cobertura jornalística da guerra na Bósnia. Na impossibilidade de traduzi-lo integralmente, fica no original, em inglês.

Entretanto, extraímos e traduzimos alguns trechos mais impressionantes. Dizem o seguinte:

“Com a informação viajando agora à velocidade da luz (ver abaixo: “With information now traveling at the speed…”), é inevitável que reportagens facciosas e enganadoras estarão logo sendo desmascaradas apenas alguns segundos depois de serem enviadas por seus autores. A defasagem de tempo entre a mentira e a realidade vem se estreitando firmemente desde a Guerra do Golfo.”

“Descobri em primeira mão que a tradição jornalística ocidental está praticamente morta (“Along the way, I discovered first hand that the Western journalistic tradition is basically dead…”) e que nossas regras de apuração cuidadosa e confirmação das informações foram em boa medida descartadas. Os repórteres simplesmente repetem a posição oficial do lado que apóiam – e não se preocupam em confirmar nada. Jornalistas que trabalham na região raramente falam do local da ação. Christianne Amanpour, da CNN, fica diante da câmera em Sarajevo e conta a história de combates na distante região de Bihac, repetindo quase literalmente despachos do governo muçulmano. A reportagem do London Times sobre o massacre na fila do pão em Sarajevo foi mandada de Belgrado e usou fontes do governo muçulmano.

Os correspondentes do Times e do Guardian trabalham em colaboração tão estreita em Belgrado que coordenam os ‘fatos’ nos respectivos relatos. Outro jornalista inglês descreveu-me como, em abril de 1994, voltou de Gorazde, após a primeira missão de bombardeio da Otan contra os sérvios, e encontrou os correspondentes do Times e do Guardian escrevendo suas próprias histórias com informações de terceira mão que recebiam de serviços noticiosos nas telas de seus computadores. Disse-lhes que havia entrevistado o motorista sérvio de uma ambulância atingida pelo fogo da Otan, e que as informações dos muçulmanos acerca de vítimas civis eram exageradas, mas eles não lhe deram atenção. ”

“A revista Time deixa o editor do jornal oficial muçulmano de Sarajevo Oslobodjenje escrever comentários como convidado, mas não o identifica como um porta-voz oficial, chamando-o meramente um ‘colaborador de Time’.”

“Então, quando vi na revista Time (“Now, when I look at Time magazine’s photo…”) a foto do garoto muçulmano caído morto ao lado do blindado de transporte de tropas, a única coisa que pude pensar foi que a mídia ocidental o havia assassinado. Seu nome e sua história foram esparramados pelo mundo afora em centenas de publicações. Em compensação, quando as duas garotas sérvias [com quem Bosnitch tinha falado pouco antes] foram mortas por atiradores muçulmanos, logo depois, suas mortes mereceram uma simples frase em poucos despachos de agências. Nunca soubemos seus nomes.

Os seis meses que passei na região foram plenos de experiências semelhantes. Fiquei sabendo que a Associated Press, a Reuters e a France Press usam rotineiramente relatos vindos de territórios croatas e muçulmanos escritos por croatas e muçulmanos desses locais, sem ter a menor possibilidade de conferir as informações.”

“Em setembro passado, viajei para dois campos de refugiados ao norte do bolsão de Bihac, no noroeste da Bósnia (“Last September, I traveled to two refugee camps…”). Os campos são ímpares porque guardam dezenas de milhares de refugiados muçulmanos que rumaram para território sérvio a fim de fugir do que eles chamam o exército ‘extremista’ do governo muçulmano de Sarajevo.

Um oficial da Real Polícia Montada do Canadá encarregado de um dos campos me deu as boas-vindas como primeiro jornalista canadense a ir até o local. Disse-me que, embora os 30 mil refugiados muçulmanos representassem o caso mais numeroso entre os êxodos ocorridos em toda a guerra da Iugoslávia, poucos jornalistas tinham ido até lá. Fiquei longo tempo no campo, vendo como os muçulmanos viviam em casas arruinadas, e como suas crianças tinham que andar cuidadosamente em torno das casas para evitar pisar em minas. As crianças estavam sujas e descalças. Não havia banheiros nem qualquer água corrente. (….)

Ao voltar a Belgrado, li uma reportagem da Agência France Presse descrevendo o que seria a boa vida nos campos de refugiados. Dizia que os muçulmanos tomavam banho de sol numa praia, tinham fartura de perfumes franceses, roupas de design italiano e, de modo geral, estavam curtindo a situação.

Fiquei chocado. Haviam-me ensinado que jornalistas devem confiar apenas nas informações que eles próprios cavam. Deveriam insistir em ver as coisas pessoalmente, não aceitar a palavra de ninguém como fato, e ser céticos o tempo todo. Deveriam também conhecer os antecedentes do fato que estão cobrindo e tentar colocar os eventos dentro de seu contexto. Se são esses os critérios de nossa profissão, há realmente muito poucos jornalistas na antiga Iugoslávia. Mas a concretização dos avanços tecnológicos promete deixar muitos dos atuais repórteres estatelados como vítimas de acidentes à margem da auto-estrada da informação.

Boa parte do que descrevi neste artigo está registrado em vídeo. A maior parte dos jornalistas com os quais trabalhei na Iugoslávia são japoneses. Quando fazemos reportagens, colhemos áudio, vídeo, fotos e documentos de texto e imagem. Os dados são digitalizados em computadores e preparados para transmissão para o mundo inteiro. Trabalhamos como freelancers multimídias, viajando para onde queremos, quando escolhemos. Nossas reportagens finais contêm comentários objetivos, mas deixamos que os entrevistados falem por si próprios.

Ao invés de pavimentar o caminho da propaganda de intervenções militares, os jornalistas deveriam servir para promover uma compreensão mais ampla, mediante a plena explicação de todas as partes numa disputa.”

Cumpre observar que a previsão do canadense otimista em relação aos meios tecnológicos deixa de lado algo muito mais grave e impalpável, que é o tom geral do noticiário. Veja-se o que aconteceu com a volta de Hong Kong para a China. Como observou nosso leitor David Capistrano, os meios de comunicação fizeram tábula rasa de todo o passado colonialista britânico e trataram a devolução de um território arrancado torpemente da China, há 150 anos, como um lacrimejante e constrangedor episódio de ameaça da civilização ocidental, em que se banharam os sortudos habitantes do paraíso Hong Kong, pela barbárie asiática. Não se trata de negligenciar o problema das pessoas que vão passar a viver sob regime ditatorial, mas a recapitulação histórica dos acontecimentos requereria no mínimo lembrar que a entrega de Hong Kong aos ingleses seguiu-se à derrota chinesa na Guerra do Ópio (1840-42), a qual consistiu na tentativa de interditar a importação da droga pelos ingleses. Como se o governo da Colômbia entrasse hoje em guerra com traficantes americanos de cocaína e, derrotado, fosse obrigado a ceder território aos EUA para que os americanos garantissem a continuação do tráfico.

Traduzimos também a apresentação escrita pelo editor do site Conspiracies:

“O jornalista canadense John Bosnitch, um agitador, aventurou-se na Bósnia e adjacências em 1994 armado apenas com seu Powerbook e uma câmara de vídeo para oito meses de emoção e observação que o deixaram, para dizê-lo de forma polida, bastante desapontado com a cobertura que aquele conflito recebe na mídia ocidental. Este é seu relato, um verdadeiro manifesto sobre o que viu lá. Bosnitch recentemente retornou à região carregado com todo tipo de parafernália tecnológica de última geração.”

M.M.


Holiday in Bosnia

Guest Scribe John Bosnitch Goes Trekking

Through the World’s Most Dangerous Quagmire

A 60 Greatest Conspiracies of All Time

Road Trip

Copyright (c)1995 By John Bosnitch

Come to think of it, what are our views?

By

John Bosnitch

BOSNIA-Press manipulation is nothing new. It took 40 years to learn the facts about the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. The first news stories released during the war said only that “evacuees” who were American citizens were being relocated. In 1942, when it was admitted that Japanese-Americans had been the specific target of forced relocations, those interned were described by the media as being generally happy and enjoying the “scenic loneliness” of their surroundings. When the true story finally came out in the 1980s, it was too late to make a difference.

The media spectacle of the Gulf War laid bare a level of government-media collusion seldom revealed to the public. After the war ended, the media admitted that Western journalists had accepted censorship with few complaints, that so-called “smart” bombs had killed thousands of civilians, that Iraqi troops were buried alive without being allowed to surrender and that the Patriot missile missed far more often than it hit its targets. Not only were journalists duped; many of them deliberately chose to present only one side of the story. On the other hand, CNN’s Peter Arnett, the reporter who stayed in Baghdad through the conflict, was criticized for trying to show the other side despite constraints by the Iraqi government.

With information now traveling at the speed of light, it is inevitable that biased and misleading news reports will soon be getting debunked mere seconds after they are first sent out. The time-lag between the lie and the reality has been steadily narrowing even since the Gulf War. All that is needed to completely close the reality gap is a news story that continues long enough for the facts to catch up with and overtake the pack journalists.

The conflict in the former Yugoslavia fits the bill. I visited Yugoslavia in the summer of 1990, shortly before the first armed confrontations. The Western news coverage over the past five years has been so slanted that the truth may only emerge after thousands more have died unnecessarily.

My 1990 visit to Yugoslavia left me feeling that Serbs in Serbia were naive in believing that civil war would be averted. I saw a storm brewing that August, when Croatian paramilitary police used force to replace ethnic Serb local police in mostly Serb-populated areas of Croatia.

During the same trip, I was surprised to see U.S. Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole meeting with Albanian separatist leaders in Serbia’s province of Kosovo. Despite being born and raised in Canada, I knew that my own interest in Yugoslavia was in part due to my paternal ancestral links to Bosnia. Applying the same theory, I checked Who’s Who to see that Dole’s parents bore the Balkan-sounding names of Doran and Bina. I wondered if there was a connection.

I also discovered that both the Bosnian Muslim President Alija Izetbegovic and Croatian President Franjo Tudjman had been jailed for “nationalist excesses” during the rule of Yugoslavia’s Croat former President-for-Life Josip Broz Tito. I wondered whether Tito’s jailing of fellow Croat Tudjman meant that there might have been some truth in the charges.

I returned to Japan expecting to see Western news wires picking up on these questions, but was surprised to see an entirely different spin being put on events. I spent the next three and a half years reading Western news reports while working at NHK Radio Japan, and later also did the same thing at The Yomiuri Shimbun, where I was a member of the editorial staff of the English-language Daily Yomiuri. Of thousands of news reports, only a handful presented the Serb side, and even those stories repeated unproved accusations against the Serbs. Stories about Slovenes, Croats and Muslims seldom carried any caveats.

I read that the Slovenes had defeated the Yugoslav army, only to learn later that hundreds of Yugoslav conscripts had been captured only after an ethnic Slovene Yugoslav army general ordered that they not be issued ammunition.

I read that Serbs were aggressors and had driven Croats out of parts of Croatia. I later learned that hundreds of thousands of Serbs from Croatia had earlier fled to Serbia and that a Serb-majority region in eastern Croatia had been ethnically cleansed of Serbs. The territory called Krajina that the Serbs ended up holding corresponded closely with what the last census showed as areas mainly populated by Serbs.

I read that the war in Bosnia began in April 1992, when Serbs fired on a peace demonstration in downtown Sarajevo. I later learned that those who fired the shots were never identified, and that in any event, the first death had already come in March, when a member of a Bosnian Serb wedding party was gunned down in Sarajevo by Muslims.

In late May 1992, the London Times reported that Serbs had killed 16 people in a Sarajevo bread line just before a scheduled U.N. sanctions vote, but I could not understand why the Serbs would do something that was certain to bring sanctions against them. Three months later, the British newspaper, The Independent, published an article titled “Muslims Slaughter their own people.” The Independent cited U.N. sources as saying the Muslims had staged the bread line attack against their own civilians in order to get international sanctions imposed against the Serbs. The Independent‘s report created a trail of reasonable doubt that I have followed ever since.

It took two years before I made it to downtown Sarajevo to hear U.N. peacekeepers tell me directly that they had seen Muslims fire on their own people to influence foreign media. Along the way, I discovered first hand that the Western journalistic tradition is basically dead and that our rules of careful research and confirmation have largely been discarded. Reporters simply repeat the line taken by the side they support-no confirmation needed. Journalists in the region seldom report from the scene of the action. CNN’s Christiane Amanpour stands in front of a camera in Sarajevo to tell the story of fighting in far-away Bihac, repeating Muslim government dispatches almost verbatim. The London Times report on the Sarajevo bread line massacre was filed from Belgrade using Muslim government sources.

The Times and Guardian correspondents work so closely together in Belgrade that they coordinate the “facts” in each other’s stories. Another English journalist described to me how in April 1994, he returned from Gorazde after NATO undertook its first ever bombing missions against the Serbs, only to find the Times and Guardian correspondents writing their own stories third-hand from wire service reports on their computer screens. He said he told them he had interviewed the Serb driver of an ambulance struck by NATO fire and that the Muslim reports of civilian casualties were exaggerated, but they took no heed.

It was not until United Nations Protection Force General Michael Rose visited Gorazde and condemned Muslim fabrications that the media reports of massive civilian casualties stopped. It took until May 1994 for The Independent to report that the frantic ham radio distress messages supposedly received from Gorazde had not even originated from that city.

Time magazine lets the editor of the official Sarajevo Muslim newspaper Oslobodjenje write guest editorials, but doesn’t identify him as an official spokesman, calling him merely a “Time contributor.” In December 1994, Time ran one of his commentaries about a young boy shot in the face by an alleged Serb sniper. In the center of the page was a photo of the boy lying in a pool of blood beside a U.N. armored personnel carrier. I was in Sarajevo around the same time as the boy died, but I was hiding from Muslim snipers behind a U.N. armored personnel carrier in the Serb-controlled part of the city.

The Serb-controlled part of the city? That must sound strange to the untrained ear. Before I went to Bosnia, I read everything I could about Sarajevo. The message I got was that the city was controlled by the Muslims and the surrounding mountains were occupied by Serb “hill-people” who fired down on the city. I even had a map from a Japanese magazine showing that the Muslims controlled the entire city core.

I was therefore surprised when I was able to walk straight down to the river that divides the city several hundred meters from the well-known Sarajevo Holiday Inn. I had to take care moving toward the city center, because behind me on the Debelo Brdo or “Fat Hill,” Muslim snipers had been shooting at civilians in the Serb part of Sarajevo.

I spoke to two little Serb girls about the same age as the boy who was shot on the other side. They said things had improved because the Muslims hadn’t fired mortars recently, but they said they were still afraid of the snipers. When I set out on foot again I ran behind buildings because the mountain called Hum on the other side of the river was also held by the Muslims and their snipers had shot at Serbs as they lined up to get water.

When I got to the river, I reached the one bridge over which people can still cross with permission of both sides. It was on that bridge that I spoke with the French peacekeepers, who said they respected the Serbs and distrusted the Muslims. I was not expecting to hear that and asked them why they held that view. They each told me, one by one, that they had seen Muslim snipers fire at their own people to gain sympathy in the West.

Now, when I look at Time magazine’s photo of the Muslim boy lying dead beside the armored personnel carrier, the only thing I can think about is that the Western media killed him. His name and his story were splashed around the world in hundreds of publications. By comparison, when two Serb girls were killed by Muslim snipers soon after, their deaths warranted a single sentence in a few news wire dispatches. We were never told their names.

The six months I spent in the region were full of similar experiences. I learned that the Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France Press news agencies regularly use stories from Croat and Muslim territory written by local Croats and Muslims, without having any means of checking the reports.

Last September, I traveled to two refugee camps north of the Bihac pocket in northwest Bosnia. The camps are unusual because they hold tens of thousands of Muslim refugees who fled to Serb territory to escape what they called the “extremist” army of the Sarajevo Muslim government.

A Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer in charge at one camp welcomed me as the first Canadian journalist at the site. He told me that even though the 30,000 Muslim refugees represented the largest single exodus to take place in the entire Yugoslav war, few journalists had come to see them. I spent a long time at each camp, seeing how the Muslims were living in ruined houses, and how their children had to walk carefully around the houses to avoid stepping on land mines. The children were dirty and barefoot. There were no toilets nor was there any running water. Newborn babies were being delivered in rooms where as many as 20 people shared the floor to sleep. At one of the camps, there were as many as 800 people per building, living in what had once been chicken hatcheries.

The Muslim refugees had wanted to continue moving north into Croatian territory from where they could seek asylum elsewhere in Europe, but Croatia refused them entry and set up machine guns on the frontier to stop them. The Croat move came in response to a request from Bosnian Muslim President Alija Izetbegovic, who wanted to force his Muslim foes to return to Bosnia. They have since done so, not as refugees, but as fighters who have allied themselves with the Serbs to drive the Muslim government army out of their home towns. Few, if any, media have reported that Bosnia’s Muslims split into two opposing factions more than a year and a half ago because local Bihac Muslim leader Fikret Abdic called for peace with the Serbs and Croats, opposing Sarajevo’s insistence on continuing the war.

I returned to Belgrade after my trip to discover an Agence France Press story about what it described as the good life in the refugee camps. It said the Muslims were sunbathing on a beach, had plenty of French perfume, Italian designer clothes and were generally living it up.

I was shocked. I was taught that journalists should trust only the information they dig up for themselves. They should insist on seeing things in person, take nobody’s word as fact, and be skeptical at all times. They should also know the background of the story they are covering and try to put current events in context. If those are the criteria for our profession, there are very few real journalists in the former Yugoslavia. Now, the swift advance of technology promises to leave many of today’s reporters sprawled like roadkill on the side of the information highway.

Much of what I have described in this article is recorded on video. Most of the journalists I have worked with in the former Yugoslavia are Japanese. When we report, we collect audio, video, still photo and text and graphical documents. That data is digitized on computers and packaged for transmission around the world. We work as multimedia freelancers, traveling where we want whenever we choose. Our finished reports contain objective commentary, but we let those interviewed speak for themselves.

Instead of providing the propaganda stepping stone for military interventionists, journalists should serve to promote broader understanding by fully explaining the views of all parties in a dispute. The InterMedia Center will soon be doing just that, working to place text and photos on the Internet.

When someone says Sarajevo is a Muslim city, you will be able to call up moving video images of the Serb part of Sarajevo, watching Serb children ducking snipers just as children do on the other side. Both the Muslim and the Serb official news agencies will be electronically linked to the multimedia document on the screen.

Users of the information database will have automatic instant access to the response made by one party to any accusations made by another. Never again will one side in a dispute be silenced by media bias promoting the other side. There will be no charge for our service.

Our video reporters will be required to begin each video clip with a 360-degree pan of the surrounding area. When I stood on that bridge in downtown Sarajevo, I recognized the images of destroyed buildings on the Muslim side, but I had never seen a single photograph of the even heavier damage to buildings on the Serb side of the bridge. If someone says Sarajevo is a besieged city, an information consumer will be able to view video images of the heavy automobile traffic inside Muslim-controlled Sarajevo and then see the barren streets in Serb Sarajevo. The viewer should then have enough time to wonder how the “besieged” manage to get gasoline when the “besiegers” cannot.

Experienced journalists should be able to travel to any country in the world to help other journalists communicate, so that even when enemies speak to each other, they understand each other perfectly. There would be nothing wrong with performing such a function in the information age, because the journalist of the future will be a man of the world, not an agent of any one state.

Autorização do autor para a publicação no OBSERVATÓRIO DA IMPRENSA

Dear Leao Serva,

I apologize for not having responded earlier, especially because I was pleased to receive your encouraging letter. Yes, you have my permission to use my article and have it translated for re-publication. Please send me a copy of the translation and the printed result.

If you would like, I could also send you some photo image files that
wentwith the original article. Could you please tell me where you saw my
article and when?

I would also like to see some of your writings on Yugoslavia. If your
book is available in English, I might be able to use it as a reference. I
also have a massive amount of material that might be of use to you in your
research. I work with a growing group of journalists who are trying to
fight the misleading abuse of the media. Perhaps we can cooperate over
the longer term?

Looking forward to hearing from you again soon…

John Bosnitch

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