2 Mart 2012 Cuma

Media & Yugoslavia




Ayşegül Tabak

Department of Television Reporting and Programming

Istanbul Bilgi University

Istanbul, Turkey

January 2012

Abstract: The following papers examine the role of media in dissolving of the Former Yugoslavia and the Yugoslav wars. Relations between media and politics and their propaganda techniques which get a direction to mass just like by a hypodermic needle.

The media played a vital role in starting the war in former Yugoslavia, by spreading the hate speech, especially manipulating the strong verbal and visual power of television and newspapaer in a chaotic climate through hundreds of television channels. Moreover approaches of Western Media and the local media under control of Milosevic affected the way of wars and lives of people.

Keywords: Media, Propaganda techniques, Hpodermic Needle Theory, Serbia, Milosevic, The Former Yugoslavia, Crotia, Bosnia


     Dissolving of Former Yugoslavia was one of the most important events in 20. Century, at the same time the most bloody, and unfortunately the media has a big part of this blood. This paper examines how the media caused to get bigger conflicts and its relations with politics. The issue will be evaluated over the hypodermic needle theory of Lazarsfeld, and explain the propaganda methods of media during the Yugoslav wars. Local media in former Yugoslavia and western media’a approach will be related with theory and methods.

 How did Yugoslavian people become ultranationalist by media?

       Media’s and politicians’ propaganda methods

Politics usully uses the media by force or collaboration to overwhelm their opponents or enemies, and media use some ways to help. Some media theories and propaganda techniques explain these ways.

 What is Magic Bullet or Hypodermic Needle theorie?

The "hypodermic needle theory" implied mass media had a direct, immediate and powerful effect on its audiences. The mass media in the 1940s and 1950s were perceived as a powerful influence on behavior change.

Several factors contributed to this "strong effects" theory of communication, including:

- the fast rise and popularization of radio and television

- the emergence of the persuasion industries, such as advertising and propaganda

- the Payne Fund studies of the 1930s, which focused on the impact of motion pictures on children, and

- Hitler's monopolization of the mass media during World War Two to unify the German public behind the Nazi party

The theory suggests that the mass media could influence a very large group of people directly and uniformly by ‘shooting’ or ‘injecting’ them with appropriate messages designed to trigger a desired response.

Both images used to express this theory (a bullet and a needle) suggest a powerful and direct flow of information from the sender to the receiver. The bullet theory graphically suggests that the message is a bullet, fired from the "media gun" into the viewer's "head". With similarly emotive imagery the hypodermic needle model suggests that media messages are injected straight into a passive audience which is immediately influenced by the message. They express the view that the media is a dangerous means of communicating an idea because the receiver or audience is powerless to resist the impact of the message. There is no escape from the effect of the message in these models. The population is seen as a sitting duck. People are seen as passive and are seen as having a lot media material "shot" at them. People end up thinking what they are told because there is no other source of information.

New assessments that the Magic Bullet Theory was not accurate came out of election studies in "The People's Choice,". The project was conducted during the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1940 to determine voting patterns and the relationship between the media and political behavior. The majority of people remained untouched by the propaganda; interpersonal outlets brought more influence than the media. The effects of the campaign were not all-powerful to where they persuaded helpless audiences uniformly and directly, which is the very definition of what the magic bullet theory does. As focus group testing, questionnaires, and other methods of marketing effectiveness testing came into widespread use; and as more interactive forms of media became available, the magic bullet theory was replaced by a variety of other, more instrumental models, like the two step of flow theory and diffusion of innovations theory.

 The classic example of the application of the Magic Bullet Theory was illustrated on October 30, 1938 when Orson Welles and the newly formed Mercury Theater group broadcasted their radio edition of H.G. Wells' "War of the Worlds." On the eve of Halloween, radio programming was interrupted with a "news bulletin" for the first time. What the audience heard was that Martians had begun an invasion of Earth in a place called Grover's Mill, New Jersey.

It became known as the "Panic Broadcast" and changed broadcast history, social psychology, civil defense and set a standard for provocative entertainment. Approximately 12 million people in the United States heard the broadcast and about one million of those actually believed that a serious alien invasion was underway. A wave of mass hysteria disrupted households, interrupted religious services, caused traffic jams and clogged communication systems. People fled their city homes to seek shelter in more rural areas, raided grocery stores and began to ration food. The nation was in a state of chaos, and this broadcast was the cause of it.

Media theorists have classified the "War of the Worlds" broadcast as the archetypal example of the Magic Bullet Theory. This is exactly how the theory worked, by injecting the message directly into the "bloodstream" of the public, attempting to create a uniform thinking. The effects of the broadcast suggested that the media could manipulate a passive and gullible public, leading theorists to believe this was one of the primary ways media authors shaped audience perception.

     Hypodermic needle / magic bullet theory aims subconscious and mortal fears of people, such as surviving, shelter, loving or hatred etc. and promises for power. In war time, if the media uses fearful news about sheltering and surviving, people get into a panic and fight or attack to save themselves.

Propaganda techniques

     There is eleven propaganda techniques which are used by media and politicians, yet five of them are used especially in wartime to move the mass; Bandwagon, Lesser of Two Evils, Name Calling, Pinpointing Enemy and Assertation.

Seven tecniques about propaganda identified by the IPA, or Institute for Propaganda Analysis in 1938. Name Calling and Bandwagon techniques are from these seven techniques, but the other three tecniques are not from these seven.

Seven Types of propaganda:
1. Bandwagon - To convince the audience to do or believe something because everyone else is doing it.
2. Plain Folks - Suggesting something is practical and a good value for ordinary people.
3. Glittering Generality - Using words so strongly positive in emotional content that just hearing them makes you feel good. The words express a positive meaning without actually giving a guarantee.
4. Transfer - Transferring good looks, feelings, or ideas to the person who the propaganda is meant to influence. Suggests the positive qualities to be associated with the product and the user.
5. Testimonial - Using a famous person to endorse the product.
6. Repetition - Using the product name or a keyword or phrase over and over.
7. Name Calling- Using harsh/kind words to make a point effective.


Assertion is commonly used in advertising and modern propaganda. An assertion is an enthusiastic or energetic statement presented as a fact, although it is not necessarily true. They often imply that the statement requires no explanation or back up, but that it should merely be accepted without question. Examples of assertion, although somewhat scarce in wartime propaganda, can be found often in modern advertising propaganda. Any time an advertiser states that their product is the best without providing evidence for this, they are using an assertion. The subject, ideally, should simply agree to the statement without searching for additional information or reasoning. Assertions, although usually simple to spot, are often dangerous forms of propaganda because they often include falsehoods or lies.


Bandwagon is one of the most common techniques in both wartime and peacetime and plays an important part in modern advertising. Bandwagon is also one of the seven main propaganda techniques identified by the Institute for Propaganda Analysis in 1938. Bandwagon is an appeal to the subject to follow the crowd, to join in because others are doing so as well. Bandwagon propaganda is, essentially, trying to convince the subject that one side is the winning side, because more people have joined it. The subject is meant to believe that since so many people have joined, that victory is inevitable and defeat impossible. Since the average person always wants to be on the winning side, he or she is compelled to join in. However, in modern propaganda, bandwagon has taken a new twist. The subject is to be convinced by the propaganda that since everyone else is doing it, they will be left out if they do not. This is, effectively, the opposite of the other type of bandwagon, but usually provokes the same results. Subjects of bandwagon are compelled to join in because everyone else is doing so as well. When confronted with bandwagon propaganda, we should weigh the pros and cons of joining in independently from the amount of people who have already joined, and, as with most types of propaganda, we should seek more information.

Lesser of Two Evils:

The "lesser of two evils" technique tries to convince us of an idea or proposal by presenting it as the least offensive option. This technique is often implemented during wartime to convince people of the need for sacrifices or to justify difficult decisions. This technique is often accompanied by adding blame on an enemy country or political group. One idea or proposal is often depicted as one of the only options or paths. When confronted with this technique, the subject should consider the value of any proposal independently of those it is being compared with.

Name Calling:

Name calling occurs often in politics and wartime scenarios, but very seldom in advertising. It is another of the seven main techniques designated by the Institute for Propaganda Analysis. It is the use of derogatory language or words that carry a negative connotation when describing an enemy. The propaganda attempts to arouse prejudice among the public by labeling the target something that the public dislikes. Often, name calling is employed using sarcasm and ridicule, and shows up often in political cartoons or writings. When examining name calling propaganda, we should attempt to separate our feelings about the name and our feelings about the actual idea or proposal.

Pinpointing the Enemy:

Pinpointing the enemy is used extremely often during wartime, and also in political campaigns and debates. This is an attempt to simplify a complex situation by presenting one specific group or person as the enemy. Although there may be other factors involved the subject is urged to simply view the situation in terms of clear-cut right and wrong. When coming in contact with this technique, the subject should attempt to consider all other factors tied into the situation. As with almost all propaganda techniques, the subject should attempt to find more information on the topic. An informed person is much less susceptible to this sort of propaganda.

Card stacking:

Card stacking, or selective omission, is one of the seven techniques identified by the IPA, or Institute for Propaganda Analysis. It involves only presenting information that is positive to an idea or proposal and omitting information contrary to it. Card stacking is used in almost all forms of propaganda, and is extremely effective in convincing the public. Although the majority of information presented by the card stacking approach is true, it is dangerous because it omits important information. The best way to deal with card stacking is to get more information.

Glittering Generalities:

Glittering generalities was one of the seven main propaganda techniques identified by the Institute for Propaganda Analysis in 1938. It also occurs very often in politics and political propaganda. Glittering generalities are words that have different positive meaning for individual subjects, but are linked to highly valued concepts. When these words are used, they demand approval without thinking, simply because such an important concept is involved. For example, when a person is asked to do something in "defense of democracy" they are more likely to agree. The concept of democracy has a positive connotation to them because it is linked to a concept that they value. Words often used as glittering generalities are honor, glory, love of country, and especially in the United States, freedom. When coming across with glittering generalities, we should especially consider the merits of the idea itself when separated from specific words.

Plain Folks:

The plain folks propaganda technique was another of the seven main techniques identified by the IPA, or Institute for Propaganda Analysis. The plain folks device is an attempt by the propagandist to convince the public that his views reflect those of the common person and that they are also working for the benefit of the common person. The propagandist will often attempt to use the accent of a specific audience as well as using specific idioms or jokes. Also, the propagandist, especially during speeches, may attempt to increase the illusion through imperfect pronunciation, stuttering, and a more limited vocabulary. Errors such as these help add to the impression of sincerity and spontaneity. This technique is usually most effective when used with glittering generalities, in an attempt to convince the public that the propagandist views about highly valued ideas are similar to their own and therefore more valid. When confronted by this type of propaganda, the subject should consider the proposals and ideas separately from the personality of the presenter.

Simplification (Stereotyping):

Simplification is extremely similar to pinpointing the enemy, in that it often reduces a complex situation to a clear-cut choice involving good and evil. This technique is often useful in swaying uneducated audiences. When faced with simplification, it is often useful to examine other factors and pieces of the proposal or idea, and, as with all other forms of propaganda, it is essential to get more information.


Testimonials are another of the seven main forms of propaganda identified by the Institute for Propaganda Analysis. Testimonials are quotations or endorsements, in or out of context, which attempt to connect a famous or respectable person with a product or item. Testimonials are very closely connected to the transfer technique, in that an attempt is made to connect an agreeable person to another item. Testimonials are often used in advertising and political campaigns. When coming across testimonials, the subject should consider the merits of the item or proposal independently of the person of organization giving the testimonial.


Transfer is another of the seven main propaganda terms first used by the Institute for Propaganda Analysis in 1938. Transfer is often used in politics and during wartime. It is an attempt to make the subject view a certain item in the same way as they view another item, to link the two in the subjects mind. Although this technique is often used to transfer negative feelings for one object to another, it can also be used in positive ways. By linking an item to something the subject respects or enjoys, positive feelings can be generated for it. However, in politics, transfer is most often used to transfer blame or bad feelings from one politician to another of his friends or party members, or even to the party itself. When confronted with propaganda using the transfer technique, we should question the merits or problems of the proposal or idea independently of convictions about other objects or proposals.

 Relations between Media and Politics

 Conditions determine who has domination in the relation between media and politics, so powerful side tells the last word. In Yugoslavia, the world media has the domination against unity of Yugoslavia, but in Yugoslavia,  politicians has the domination against the local media to achieve their desires. Indeed in the same way politics influences the media, media influences politics. The sort of the wild card that would come into play would be the events themselves, what is happening in the world. The role of the media staff in politics is to control the story. They’re controlling the access to the President. On television the visual is more important and distracts from what is being said. So people can actually get a 180° different idea of what is happening by watching the very videos that are controlled by the Politicians. They can’t control the story itself but they can control the video that is going to be used for that story. And they’re out for their own gain, too. It’s kind of a debate to get the upper hand: Journalists trying to keep control of the interview, sources trying to take it away from them and to take it to an area where they are more comfortable. Journalists want the big story to improve their own career. It is very much a power struggle between the press and politicians, so media and politics becomes good friends in wartimes, of course according to which journalists match which government, however free journalists fight for free news, but in this article we search for bad ones.

In this case each side uses their propaganda methods, because propaganda becomes a weapon of war easily. In the second World War, black propaganda which is the news has no source, caused of death for millions of jewish people. Hitler’s propaganda had washed the brains of many people. For example from the second world war, in 1941, the Political Warfare Executive (PWE) was set up by the British Government mainly to develop black propaganda. The PWE works through the BBC to broadcast propaganda to Europe. It was also responsible for allied information and mis-information plans at the time of the D-Day landings in June 1944. Millions of publications were created – leaflets, newspapaer, stickers, stamps and posters – and airdropped over Nazi- occupied Europe. Leaflets were produced in many languages, including French, German, Danish, Norwegian, and Czech. And another important propaganda example from Turkey in 6-7 september 1955 istanbul riots; İstanbul express newpaper wrote a headline “Ataturk’s House was bombed!” against Greek citizens. In fact the newspaper had 20.000 circulations, but that day owner pressed 290.000 counts, then “Kıbrıs is Turkish Assosiation” sold the newspaper in Istanbul. Then boil overed Turkish crowded looted shops and houses of Greeks in İstanbul, then politicians had a new legitimacy to conclude their plan to Greece about Cyprus. This is an example for hypodermic needle /magic bullet theory at the same time. Similer scenes lived in Yugoslavia, especially in war between Serbs and Bosniaks. Name calling generally is used as cartoons or pictures. The Picture of a "Serbian boy whose whole family was killed by Bosnian Muslims", published by Večernje novosti during the Bosnian War, this black and white picture published in newspaper and it seemed so sadly, but indeed it is Orphan on the mother's grave. A 1888 painting by Uroš Predić. It got black and white and trasformed like a photograph, and A Serb flyer used during the war, calling upon all citizens of Dubrovnik to cooperate with the JNA against "vampired Ustashas.

 Role of the Yugoslav media in dissolving of Yugoslavia

     The media in the Former Yugoslavia

                 During the conflict, media was under the control of the military; the pre-war infrastructure of media was collapsed and propaganda dominated its content.   In post-war Bosnia and Herzegovina the international community funded number of projects to apply the pluralistic approach and break the state monopoly. Dayton Peace Agreement refers to the creation of positive environment for free elections and hands over the responsibility to the political parties for freedom of speech and press. The 1996 elections was the first elections after the war, so creating the democratic environment for the elections was a challenging task.  Media sphere was reflecting the dominant nationalism.   Open Broadcasting Network (OBN) was one of the most ambitious -yet failed- projects and it was designed as a part of the democratisation process. OBN was broadcasting just one week before the elections operating under the OHR to all territories in the country and it was funded by international community through foreign donations.

     The state controlled outlets such as Radia Televizija serbije and radio Jugoslavija fully supported the policies and objectives of the Milosevic regime until its demise. Generally speaking most state or quasi-state media organizations in the Balkans have taken a similar position. That is not to say that there were no dissenting or independent voices. Within Bosnia and Kosovo most newspapers are aimed at particular ethnic groups. But here too, independent publishers continue to provide balanced coverage of the political agenda. In a similar vein, a large number of raido stations inside the region have been used as disseminators of specific agendas, while some continue to provide balanced reporting. In fact after the arrival of international peacekeeping troops in the region they too set up a number of radio stations with a view to influencing the local population.

      The media under control of Milosevic and his propaganda

The media under control of Milosevic was Radio B92 changed the scene of conflicts in eye of people around the world, because the voice of America and Radio Free Europe also rebroadcast B92’s programs from outside the country at a time when its own transmitters were closed by incumbent regime, thus Milosevic’s Serbs seemed under pressure of muslims and rightful to kill them.

By "Without the media, and especially without television, war in the former Yugoslavia is inconceivable," according to Nenad Pejic. His statement was cited in a 97-page expert report examining Serbian propaganda tactics during the Balkan wars. Written by Professor Renaud de la Brosse of the University of Reims, France, it was filed by the prosecutor in the Milosevic case.

In both the Croatia and Bosnia indictments, one of Milosevic's alleged contributions to a joint criminal enterprise to ethnically cleanse large areas of Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina was his use of the Serbian state media to create an atmosphere of fear and hatred among Serbs by spreading. "Exaggerated and false messages of ethnically based attacks by Bosnian Muslims and Croats against Serb people."

According to De la Brosse, Milosevic began his efforts to control audio-visual media in 1986-87, finishing the process in summer 1991. "The media offensive launched by Belgrade contributed to the appearance of equally detestable propaganda in other Yugoslav republics and its after-effects would be felt for years" the report said, quoting former Reuters Sarajevo correspondent Daniel Deluce. 

De la Brosse claims the Serbian authorities used the media as a weapon in their military campaign. "In Serbia specifically, the use of media for nationalist ends and objectives formed part of a well-thought through plan - itself part of a strategy of conquest and affirmation of identity," said the report. It was effective, in part, because the society was in transition from communism, an ideology that largely defined people for 50 years. Its demise left a vacuum, and a population in search of a new identity. The nationalist ideology provided an answer. It defined the Serbs according to a historical legend, based part on fact, part on fiction. Not only did the nationalist ideology reach back 600 years to tales of the defeat of Serbia by the Ottoman forces at the battle of Kosovo Polje, it also encompassed the more factual and more recent tragedies suffered by Serbs during World War Two at the hands of Croatian pro-Nazi Ustashe. The report says Milosevic's propaganda campaign was based on the same techniques as used by Adolf Hitler, with the added power of television. "Nazi propaganda had shown that myths bind the masses together tightly. Indeed, it was through myths and, therefore, the appeal to the forces of the unconscious, to fear and terror, the instinct of power and the lost community that the propaganda orchestrated by Goebbels had succeeded in winning over the Germans and melding them into a compact mass," the report said. The Serbian regime would use a similar technique. To weld the population together, official propaganda drew on the sources of the Serbian mystique, that of a people who were the mistreated victims and martyrs of history and that of Greater Serbia, indissolubly linked to the Orthodox religion. Serbian television and radio's repetitive use of pejorative descriptions, such as "Ustashe hordes", "Vatican fascists", "Mujahedin fighters", "fundamentalist warriors of Jihad", and "Albanian terrorists", quickly became part of common usage. Unverified stories, presented as fact, were turned into common knowledge - for example, that Bosnian Muslims were feeding Serb children to animals in the Sarajevo zoo. In these stories, friends and neighbours, fellow countrymen and women were turned into "the other", lacking humanising or individual characteristics.
           For the print media, Milosevic's methods were different. Until the run-up to the Kosovo war, he allowed the independent press to publish, although their distribution was extremely limited. His methods of controlling the press included false paper shortages, interfering or blocking equipment supplies and confiscating newspapers printed without proper licenses - he controlled the license system.
            For state-owned media, he could dismiss, promote, demote or have journalists publicly condemned. In 1998, he adopted a draconian media law which created a special misdemeanor court to try violations. This law had the ability to impose heavy fines and to confiscate property if the fine were not paid immediately. Between October 1998 and November 1999, the court levied fines amounting to l.125 million US dollars. If that were not enough to deter any independent-minded journalist, there was the example of Slavko Curuvija, assassinated in front of his home shortly after the Kosovo war started.  According to the expert report, official Serbian propaganda reached more than 3.5 million people every night. Given that and the lack of access to alternative news, it is surprising how great was the resistance - evidenced not only in massive demonstrations in Serbia in 1991 and 1996-97, both of which almost toppled the regime, but also widespread draft dodging and desertion from the military.

Some of the cases of Serbian manipulation include:

"Vukovar baby massacre" case

Day before the execution of 264 Croatian prisoners of war's and civilians in the Ovčara massacre, Serbian media released the news of 40 Serb babies being slaughterd in Vukovar. Dr. Vesna Bosanac, the head of Vukovar hospital from which the Croatian POW's and civilians were taken, said she believed the story of slaughtered babies was released intentionally to make Serb nationalists more angry thus inciting them to execute Croats.

"Dubrovnik 30,000 Ustashas" case

Main articles: Siege of Dubrovnik and Ustasha

JNA soldier reads propaganda of "Pobjeda" on Ustashe hidden behind the walls of Dubrovnik.

A Serb flyer used during the war, calling upon all citizens of Dubrovnik to cooperate with the JNA against "vampired Ustashas"

Before the Siege of Dubrovnik, JNA officers (namely Pavle Strugar) made a concerted effort at misrepresenting the military situation on the ground and exaggerated the "threat" of an Croatian attack on Montenegro by "30,000 armed Ustashas and 7000 terrorists, including Kurdish mercenaries". This propaganda was widely spread by the state-controlled media of Serbia and Montenegro.

Actually, Croatian military forces in the area at September were virtually non-existent.[14] The defenders included just one locally conscripted unit, numbered less than 1,500 men and had no tanks or heavy guns. Also, there were no mercenaries on the Croat side.

"Dubrovnik burning tires" case

Main article: Siege of Dubrovnik

During the Siege of Dubrovnik in 1991, while the Yugoslav army shelled the Croatian port town, Radio Television of Serbia showed Dubrovnik with columns of smoke explaining that the local people burning automobile tires to simulate destruction of the city.

Operation Opera Orientalis

During the secret intelligence Operation Opera Orientalis, while the Serb-controlled Yugoslav Air Force bombed Jewish cemetery and Jewish Community Center in Zagreb in August 1991, Serbian media repeatedly made false accusations in which Croatia was connected with World War II, nazism and anti-Judaism with the aim to discredit the Croatian demands for independence in the West.

"Bosnian mujahideen" case

Main article: Bosnian mujahideen

Serbian propaganda during the Bosnian war portrayed the Bosnian Muslims as violent extremists and fundamentalists. After series of massacres of Bosniaks, a few hundreds (between 300  and 1,500) of Arabic-speaking volunteers from the Middle East and North Africa, called Mujahideen, came into Bosnia in the second half of 1992 with the aim of helping their Muslim brothers. Serb media fabricated much bigger numbers of mujahideens presenting them as terrorists a huge threat to Europe, in order to inflame anti-Muslim hatred among Serbs.  Although Serbian media created much controversy about alleged war crimes committed by them, no indictment was issued by ICTY against any of these foreign volunteers.

"Prijedor monster doctors" case

Main article: Prijedor massacre

Just before the Prijedor massacre of Bosniak and Croat civilians, Serb propaganda characterising prominent non-Serbs as criminals and extremists who should be punished for their behaviour. Dr. Mirsad Mujadžić, Bosniak politician, was accused of injecting drugs into Serb women making them incapable of giving birth to male children, thus reducing the birth rate among Serbs, and dr. Željko Sikora, a Croat, referred to as the Monster Doctor, was accused of making Serb women abort if they were pregnant with male children and of castrating the male babies of Serbian parents.  Moreover, in a "Kozarski Vjesnik" article dated June 10, 1992, Dr. Osman Mahmuljin was accused of deliberately having provided incorrect medical care to his Serb colleague Dr. Živko Dukić, who had a heart attack.

Mile Mutić, the director of Kozarski Vjesnik and the journalist Rade Mutić regularly attended meetings of Serb politicians (local authorities) in order to get informed about next steps of spreading propaganda.

Milošević began his efforts to gain control over the media in 1986-87, a process which was complete by summer of 1991. In 1992 Radio Television Belgrade, together with Radio Television Novi Sad (RTNS) and Radio Television Pristina (RTP) became a part of Radio Television of Serbia, centralized and closely governed network aimed to be a loudspeaker for Miloševic and his policy. During the 1990s, Dnevnik (Daily news) was used to glorify "wise politics of Slobodan Milošević" and to attack "servants of Western powers, forces of chaos and despair", i.e., Serbian opposition. JNA soldier reads propaganda of "Pobjeda" on Ustashe hidden behind the walls of Dubrovnik.

De la Brosse describes how RTS (Radio Television of Serbia) portrayed events in Dubrovnik and Sarajevo: "The images shown of Dubrovnik came with a commentary accusing those from the West who had taken the film of manipulation and of having had a tire burnt in front of their cameras to make it seem that the city was on fire. As for the shells fired at Sarajevo and the damage caused, for several months it was simply as if it had never happened in the eyes of Serbian television viewers because Belgrade television would show pictures of the city taken months and even years beforehand to deny that it had ever occurred." The Serbian public was fed similar disinformation about Vukovar, according to former Reuters correspondent Daniel Deluce, "Serbian Radio Television created a strange universe in which Sarajevo, the Bosnian capital, had never been besieged and in which the devastated Croatian town of Vukovar had been 'liberated'."

Propaganda as a war crime in the Šešelj's case

Propaganda as a war crime (incitement to genocide) is the subject in the recent indictment of Vojislav Šešelj, head of the Serbian Radical Party and an active player throughout the wars in the former Yugoslavia. According to the indictment, Seselj bears individual criminal responsibility for instigating crimes, including murder, torture and forcible expulsion on ethnic grounds. It reads, "By using the word 'instigated', the Prosecution charges that the accused Vojislav Seselj's speeches, communications, acts and/or omissions contributed to the perpetrators' decision to commit the crimes alleged."

Croatian propaganda

Croats also used propaganda against Serbs throughout and against Bosniaks during the 1992-1994 Croat-Bosniak war, which was part of the larger Bosnian War. During Lašva Valley ethnic cleansing Croat forces seized the television broadcasting stations (for example at Skradno) and created its own local radio and television to carry propaganda, seized the public institutions, raised the Croatian flag over public institution buildings, and imposed the Croatian Dinar as the unit of currency. During this time, Busovača's Bosniaks were forced to sign an act of allegiance to the Croat authorities, fell victim to numerous attacks on shops and businesses and, gradually, left the area out of fear that they would be the victims of mass crimes. According to ICTY Trial Chambers in Blaškić case Croat authorities created a radio station in Kiseljak to broadcast nationalist propaganda. A similar pattern was applied in Mostar and Gornji Vakuf (where Croats created a radio station called Radio Uskoplje). Local propaganda efforts in parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina controlled by the Croats, were supported by Croatian daily newspapers such as Večernji list and Croatian Radiotelevision, especially by controversial reporters Dijana Čuljak and Smiljko Šagolj who are still blamed by the families of Bosniak victims in Vranica case for inciting massacre of Bosnian POWs in Mostar, when broadcasting a report about alleged terrorists arrested by Croats who victimized Croat civilians. The bodies of Bosnian POWs were later found in Goranci mass grave. Croatian Radiotelevision presented Croat attack on Mostar, as a Bosnian Muslim attack on Croats in alliance with the Serbs. According to ICTY, in the early hours of May 9, 1993, the Croatian Defence Council (HVO) attacked Mostar using artillery, mortars, heavy weapons and small arms. The HVO controlled all roads leading into Mostar and international organisations were denied access. Radio Mostar announced that all Bosniaks should hang out a white flag from their windows. The HVO attack had been well prepared and planned.

During the ICTY trials against Croat war leaders, many Croatian journalists participated as the defence witnesses trying to relativise war crimes committed by Croatian troops against non-Croat civilians (Bosniaks in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbs in Croatia). During the trial against general Tihomir Blaškić (later convicted of war crimes), Ivica Mlivončić, Croatian columnist in Slobodna Dalmacija, tried to defend general Blaškić presenting number of claims in his book Zločin s pečatom about alleged genocide against Croats (most of it unproven or false), which was considered by the Trial Chambers as irrelevant for the case. After the conviction, he continued to write in Slobodna Dalmacija against the ICTY presenting it as the court against Croats, with chauvinistic claims that the ICTY cannot be unbiassed because it is financed by Saudi Arabia (Muslims).

Role of the western media before Yugoslav Wars

     Throughout the Balkan conflicts of the 1990s most mainstream western media fully supported the campaigns against Yugoslavia once the decision to  do something was taken. However, numerous commentators agree that it took a long time to move Western governments to make a commitment. As James Gow noted in 1997, it was a “triumph of a lack of will” that despite the images on CNN and other television outlets, and the coverage of events in the printed media both European and North Amerikan Goverments held back form direct intervention for so long. At the same time the international press has been castigated for blatant unfairnessin that they were thought  to have taken sides form the outset and had concentrated on Serb aggression while apperantly ignoring anti-serb acts of barbarism. In addition to this criticism they were also accused of selective reporting in that not all the geographically diverse scenes of conflict were given equitable coverage. This would seem harsh as the many widely dispersed battles and events were never likely to be reported with the same intensity. The mainstream news organizations just did not have sufficient resources available or in place and they could not possibly provide the sort of blanket coverage that is common when addressing events in a strictly confined space and for a limited period.


     Marshall McLuhan said “The medium is the message”. Media can get a direction to societies and countries if politicians want or cause that. Relations between media and politics decide the plans. In Former Yugoslavia the international and local actors gave a fight for propaganda in collaboration with allied against opponents. Western media’s approach vs. some politicians just like Milosevic who had the power and pressure on local media divided the Former Yugoslavia. Several propaganda techniques were used as black (unsoursed) to win, and caused the death of millions. Hypodermic needle or Magic bullet theory explain us how the people in Yugoslavia were affected by news, manipulations, claims via television and newspapers. In the traditional mass media people cannot research the resourses, and generally subconscious of people are aimed, then they need to safe themselves against described as enemies.  Hate speech is provided by propaganda techniques and gave people via media by hypodermic needle method in former Yugoslavia and became them ultra-nationalist just like Hitler’s Nazis.

Then finally “The medium became the violence!”


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2. Ucel, H. (2007). The Role of Television in Peace Building: The Bosnian Experience. 2

3. The Science of Modern Propaganda. http://www.propaganda101.com/

4. Lee, Alfred McLung; Lee, Elizabeth Bryan. Propaganda Analysis. http://carmen.artsci.washington.edu/ (subdirectory).

5. Dorje, Carl. Propaganda Techniques. http://serendipity.magnet.ch/more/propagan.html

7.   Reynolds, P.W. Media and Communications System in the Balkan Conflicts in Reflections on the Balkan Wars Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire; New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2004 ss.76,77, 83

8. Second World War black propaganda. http://digital.nls.uk/propaganda/black/index.html  

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