Author: Gvozden Šarac

International Conference “Serbs and Russians in Mass Media”, Nizhny Novgorod

When I was invited to address the professors and students of the Faculty for International Relations and World Politics in the Russian city of Nizhny Novgorod on the topic of “Serbs and Russians in Mass Media”, I felt a measure of pride for being the only journalist from the Republic of Srpska to be bestowed that honor. But also the responsibility, to accurately convey a small part of the media satanization that Serbs faced in the 90s. A monologue via the Zoom app is not the same as direct communication, but exposing the Western media machine left a mark, or so I was later told from Novgorod.

I consciously and deliberately said that I was calling from East Sarajevo, both for local-patriotic reasons and because of the fact that we are the only city with a monument to Vitaly Churkin, but more on that later. Despite everything, I continued, East Sarajevo was built after Dayton by the Sarajevo Serbs, perhaps the most suffering part of the Serbian people on the left bank of the Drina. I said despite everything because we were destined to live like wanderers after we lost in the stroke of a pen an enormous part of territory in Sarajevo and its surroundings, that we defended in the war. What followed was an exodus of biblical proportions, tens of thousands of Serbs left their homes. Too difficult were the images of parents carrying the remains of their sons and daughter s because they would not leave them to the enemy. But those apocalyptic images were not interesting to the Western media, they did not report on that. Instead they reported on the establishment of a “Bosnian” government in the parts of Sarajevo abandoned by Serbs. It was impossible to “sell” any story about the suffering of Serbs to the Western media, or even one that offered at least a balanced report. They even mocked the exodus of Serbs as naive, asking why they wouldn’t stay to live with their neighbors, who were killing them until yesterday. That was merely a continuation of the narrative about the evil Serbs, brutally applied across the Western media in the 90s about Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Balkans.

We were the aggressors on our own land, the pro-Western media reported unverified information that we had raped 100,000 Muslim women, which was a lie of colossal magnitude, we were accused of using snipers and throwing grenades, everything that the so-called Army of the Republic of BiH was actually doing to Serbs. Johann Fritz, editor-in-chief of Die Presse from Vienna, wrote, I quote, “After all, to us the Bosnian Serbs always were and still are a gang of delinquents and murderers”.

Even CNN, following the murder of a Serbian wedding party on March 1, 1992 in Sarajevo, which was in some ways a trigger for the war, initially reported that the murdered wedding party was Bosnian. Subsequent denials, if there were any, did little to mitigate the damage already inflicted. The stage for the dissolution of the community state of Yugoslavia was set before the 90s, and the Western directors assigned the villain role to Serbs, which the American and European media persistently repeated and “bolded”.

Serbs paid a hefty price for certain media lies. The Republic of Srpska was bombed after the Markale incident in August 1995. “Markale” were not in the indictment of Radovan Karadžić, but it was too late because the NATO had already bombed Serbs, dropping thousands of tons of ammunition with depleted uranium, which we still suffer from today.

Four years later, in 1999, the staged Račak case in Kosovo and Metohija was followed by a brutal NATO intervention in Serbia without the agreement of the UN Security Council, with horrendous consequences. All of this seems to be reflected in the events in Ukraine. The director remained the same, only the roles changed, Russians are under media attack instead of Serbs. Allow me to quote a friend of mine to illustrate the media mud being slung on the Russian people by powerful Western media companies. The Sarajevoization of Kyiv, the Srebrenization of Mariupol and the Račakization of Bucha are now in progress in Ukraine.

At the beginning of the Russian operation, the Western media martyrized Kyiv like they did Sarajevo back when. I would not be surprised if the killed members of the nationalist Azov Battalion end up being painted as genocide victims. And Bucha and what is being presented as a crime by the Russian army in that town is nearly identical to what leader of the observers in Račak William Walker did when he put civilian clothes on the eliminated Albanian terrorists and called them innocent villagers. The Western media went quiet on Bucha, and how could they not when the allegedly dead people stood up and waved.

How do you stand up to a media narrative that relentlessly vilifies an entire people, then Serbian and now Russian? One way is to inform and awaken our own public, above all. And we are succeeding in the endeavor. Serbs in the Republic of Srpska are well aware of what was happening in the 90s and don’t need any CNN, BBC or Deutsche Welle to learn their own history. We are aware that we cannot influence the mass media in the United States and Western Europe, but there are reasonable people in those parts. Hannes Hofbauer, author of many books including War in the Balkans (Ger. Balkankrieg), The Kosovo Twist (Ger: Experiment Kosovo), Truth Ordered —Justice Purchased (Ger: Veordnete Wahrheit, Bestrafte Gesinnung: Rechtssprechung als Politiches Instrument), wrote on the work of Western journalists in the 90s: The reporting of the Western media, particularly in the German-speaking works, was extremely one-sided and focused on the Muslim narrative.

To this day, the Western media and the local ones in Bosnia and Herzegovina that are their branches are selling us the line about the alleged malignant Russian influence. Where exactly is that influence in the Balkans, today or yesterday? I’ve searched, I’ve asked who occupied the Balkans in the 15th century. The Russians? No, it was the Ottoman Turks. Who occupied Bosnia after the Congress of Vienna and annexed It in 1908? Why, the Austro-Hungarians. Who attacked Serbia in 1914? Austro-Hungarians again. German, not Russian.

It was the Austro-Hungarians, not the Russians, who designed the first concentration camps in Europe, the first of which was in Doboj in the Republic of Srpska. Who bombed Belgrade and other cities in Serbia and Montenegro in 1941? The German air force, not Russian. The British air force did the same on Easter three years later. Russians have never bombed Serbs, not in the Republic of Srpska in 1995, not in Yugoslavia in 1999. We all know who did, the NATO.

So where is that malignant Russian influence? Nowhere, except in the custom-made and fabricated reports in the Western European and American media. I have interviewed the previous three Ambassadors of Russia in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Neither Aleksandr Botsan-Kharchenko, nor Petr Ivantsov, nor Igor Kalabuhov ever said “you must, you should”. No, they always say that the Russian Federation considers acceptable any decision agreed by the political representatives of the three peoples in BiH, without the involvement of the international community. While the ambassadors from the Western hemisphere always speak in an authoritarian tone, “you must, you should”. So, who has a malignant influence in the Balkans?

The only influence of the Russian Federation is that it blocked the Resolution on Srebrenica proposed by the United Kingdom for adoption in the UN Security Council in 2015. It would forever label Serbs as a genetically corrupt and bad people. Well, the Russians, more precisely Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, would not allow that. Generations of Serbs from the Republic of Srpska thank him for that, and for that reason my city erected a memorial to Churkin bearing his name, picture, and the insription “Спасибо за Русское Нет(Thank you for the Russian ‘No’).

The Serbs and the Russians are a libertarian people. I am convinced that they will remain such, and we have no choice but to bear witness to the truth by connecting with each other. The day will come when the free people in Europe and the United States will wake up and remove all those who speak about Russia in a rude and primitive way and expect the Serbs to unconditionally join the sanctions against Moscow. There is no Europe without Russia, and no stable Balkans without Serbia and Srpska, and both Europe and the Balkans will disappear sooner than the Russians and the Serbs.