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NO 121-122

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INFO   :::  Helsinki Charter - PAGE 2 > Helsinki Charter No. 121-122 > Text


Helsinki Charter No. 121-122

July - August 2008


Radovan Karadzic in The Hague


By Slobodanka Ast

When Dr. Dabic took off his mask and revealed a new face of Dr. Radovan Karadzic, our media revealed their woeful and pitiful face, and fully exposed superfluousness, irresponsibility and banality plaguing professional journalism. The discourse emerging from that shallow mud hole focused on insubstantial, bizarre or sensationalistic details of the latest chapter of the biography of the person who all of a sudden - and considerably thanks to domestic media - became a mythical being of the Serbian newly composed history.

Newspapers competed in deplorable writings about a charismatic leader, a perfect intellectual with a perfect ego, a wizard at alternative medicine, a fighter for the rights of the Serb people in Bosnia-Herzegovina, a decent neighbor, a charming doctor, a respected swindler, an excellent cook, a book lover and a vegetarian drinking only low-calorie yoghurt and special mineral water, another Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, a man of spirit and of arms, a healer, an epic musician, a poet, a master of tihovanje and a persona grata of the illegally built pub symbolically called "The Mad House."

Our print and broadcast media extensively featured all aspects of the life of Messrs. Dabic and Karadzic but it never occurred to them to remind their audiences of the warring feasts of Republika Srpska Army and brotherly para-military troops from Serbia. The facts about Karadzic's bamboozling - at the time before he became Dr. Dabic - were inserted here and there in that collage of undercover life, bioenergy, disguise and deceit. Arguments testifying of that could be found in Biljana Plavsic's memoirs, but also in the facts that he spent 11 months in custody awaiting trial for embezzlement, that he was sentenced to three-year imprisonment (the time he never served) for deceit and theft, that he was disbarred in London...

THE MAD HOUSE: When Karadzic was arrested the media interviewed cooks and dishwashers in the New Belgrade pancake shops, his "teachers," landlords, waiters, tailors, colleagues.No one bothered to interview Bosnian women who lost their families and were victims of the atrocities by the army the supreme commander of which was Radovan Karadzic. No one bothered to interview citizens of Sarajevo his marksmen have shot at for years...

Newspapers meticulously informed their readerships that at the website they could find Dr. Dabic's advice and articles targeting the young, businessmen, women, etc. This general practitioner shaman - who called himself well-being-harmonizer of bioenergy - was capable of accelerating spermatozoids, making people look younger by the use of quantal energo-cosmetics, healing impotence, etc.

If suffices to take a look at newspaper headlines: "Seduced Women, Treated Celebrities," "Lived on Wine and Monastery Bread," "Found Peace in Temple," "The Secret Life of a Hero," "Radovan Karadzic's Love of Life," "Psychiatrist Who Helped the Red Star Football Team to Win the Championship," "The Gentle Granddaddy Dabic," "Proud of His Work," "Radovan's Refuge," "Tourists in the 'Mad House'," etc. It goes without saying that all those "reportages" were richly illustrated by photos taken at the spot...

Some columnists were kind of embarrassed with all that. "One cannot but wonder whether public figures have the right to privacy, especially at the times when they are helpless to defend themselves from busybodies or even to protest," wrote one of them.

A reporter for the same "serious newspaper" takes it quite normal that Karadzic was in hiding given that he had not wanted to give himself up the court the objectivity of which he distrusted. It's quite normal, she writes, that he opted for the profession he was familiar with while undercover. Wasn't that less dangerous than expecting someone to support him, she wonders. Before she set herself to write this argument for defense of Dr. Dabic or Dr. Karadzic, this colleague of mine could have at least gone through the memoirs of Biljana Plavsic, who claims he had appropriated millions and millions from the banks in Republika Srpska. However, this colleague - journalist and poetess as she bylines her stories - says in this column run in the Politika:

"He looks - and it turned out that he was - psychologically stable and physically healthy. This proves that his work was not quackery but a profession the effectiveness of which he tested on himself."

Then she rebukes her colleagues who "manifest no sense of responsibility" towards members of Karadzic's family. In this context, she lectures the entire profession by saying, "It would be good for every editor and journalist to realize that their profession has enormous power to shape opinions of 'ordinary people' and, therefore, wish to use this power responsibly and for general benefit."

That would be good, indeed!

CAPITULATION AND OCCUPATION: Unavoidable and omnipresent commentator Djordje Vukadinovic also criticizes the media in the NIN weekly. "From the very moment the news about Karadzic's arrest was publicized the Serb public opinion has been exposed to ruthless and literally round-the-clock media spinning in which - like so many times in history - the interests of foreign aggressors corresponded to those of domestic rulers," says Vukadinovic. According to him, the American media and the B92 were the loudest of all. He summarizes the media picture in two phrases: political capitulation and media occupation!

And this is what, two days after Karadzic's arrest, Vukadinovic self-confidently messages the Serb audience:

"Like any typical Serb, Radovan Karadzic also stumbled and fell at an inch distance from his goal. Had his obviously most successful, thirteen-year hiding lasted just six month longer than the deadline for new processes Karadzic could have said with good reason that he had defeated The Hague Tribunal. I wouldn't say, of course, that his failure is the worst and the most important thing that befell us. But I am absolutely sure that, regardless of their political affiliations, the absolute majority of Serbs would have cheered had it happened otherwise. Likewise, I am absolutely certain that the absolute majority of Serbs are now at least a bit frustrated and ashamed..."

As an extremely significant score for Karadzic some media began telling the stories according to which CIA had protected Karadzic from The Hague due to his deal with the American administration, more precisely with Richard Holbrooke. All those secrets have been meticulously catalogued in Karadzic's famous handbag with 55 diskettes that simply disappeared into thin air at the famous Batajnica road.

The media were focused on scores of side topics. They wondered whether foreign intelligence service played a part in Karadzic's arrest, who was included in the network of his accomplices, when did he arrive to Serbia, what was the actual deal between him and Richard Holbrooke, etc. Preoccupation of the great majority of the media and "well-informed sources" with the role the official Washington has played in Dr. Karadzic's life and wandering in the past ten years is most indicative. When firstly asked about the alleged deal with Karadzic a couple of years ago, Holbrook said that were just rumors, untruths and fabrications that could not be proved. So, there are no written proofs whatsoever.

As if any proof about such a "deal" wouldn't only prove that Karadzic knew he was guilty as hell and would have to face justice one fine day.

When Karadzic was arrested newspapers didn't carry in-depth stories about Srebrenica, shelling of Sarajevo, mass killings and bloody feasts but they did dwell on love life, bioenergy power and extra-matrimonial escapades.

His arrest provided the opportunity to many media to run over and over again their favorite theses about double standards in the tribunal in The Hague, Serbs' suffering, unfair indictments and punishments, Serbs' deaths in Sheveningen, etc. The message they put across has always been the same: The Hague is a "death factory" for the Serbs.

ELITES' RESPONSIBILITY: Many an expert expounded Karadzic's right to defend himself. Of course, the predominant headlines were "Karadzic Has the Right To Defend Himself." Added to that, papers carried analyses about the ICTY term and dissected relevant signals from Moscow.

The media kept silent about victims. All that intonation was provided by political elites that would not even hint that Karadzic used to be in command of everything that happened in the territory of Bosnia-Herzegovina during the war.

It goes without saying that the media failed to politically analyze the arrest from the angle of Serbia's complex political scene.

Even some good authors were more focused on Radovan Karadzic's fall from "mythical cloud" on which national poets, senators of Republika Srpska and "fathers of the nation" placed him. The false king of mountains has not secluded himself to asceticism but was all the time "here, among us," as Prof. Kosta Cavoski triumphantly told a panel to launch one of Karadzic's books. Those analysts seemed to be more interested in the how of Karadzic's "stepping down on the earth" and his arrest in a dusty local bus. They strongly criticized the authorities for secrecy of the action and demanded details on how come that Karadzic was arrested in that location rather than in an operation including helicopters and special troops.

Preoccupied with all those cheap stories, sneaking political intrigues and the alleged deal with the Americans, the media did not made any serious attempt to present, quote and dissect the indictment against Radovan Karadzic.

The media even failed to appropriately confront beatification of Radovan Karadzic to a national hero. For a segment of the youth, this "archetype" became a hero. The scene at the streets of Belgrade in the heat of this August, at the anniversary of the Tempest operation looked surrealistic: whereas the TV documentary "The Fall of Krajina" was documenting that Karadzic had personally made a deal with Tudjman and bound himself not to help citizens of Krajina, a handful of refugees and some young people were demonstrating and waving posters with Karadzic's portrait.

Unfortunately, this again testified of a missed opportunity for confronting the past and the crimes that have been committed.

The media failed to run analytical pieces that would have reminded the public, but also informed younger generations, of the person who had held Sarajevo under siege for years, shelled it from surrounding hills and was responsible for its killing.

Domestic media are not exactly fond of featuring the crimes committed by the Serb side, let alone the Srebrenica genocide. Almost in the aftermath of Milosevic's ouster and DOS coming to power lustration and facing the past were proclaimed "depressing, low-circulation topics" made senseless by "the passage of time." The Fourth Estate concluded as one that stories about Dr. Dragan David Dabic would sell papers by far better in the summer heat that those about the warring career of Dr. Radovan Karadzic. Was that a concession to the collective mechanism of self-defense and self-delusion, an act of overthrowing "trans-generation trauma, as psychiatrist Tamara Steiner said in a TV show dealing with Karadzic?

Be that as it may be, that was a concession to crime and its defense. The entire media chorus achieved the same goal though their intentions need not be the same - it relativized the crime, equalized criminals and victims, and put across the message the "there are to sides of the coin."

The rubbish about tihovanje, bioenergy and playing of folk music rather than serious discussion about Karadzic's war career is nothing but media pornography of the worst kind meant to cover up the horrible pictures of war crimes and destruction. As a prelude, the national broadcaster should air Lazar Stojanovic's film "Serb Epic," featuring Radovan Karadzic shooting Sarajevo and its residents, and handing over machine gun to Russian writer Limonov to shoot one round himself.

Even this one before the last chapter of the Balkans' bloody story demonstrates that the media didn't know or wouldn't tell the whys of The Hague Tribunal's indictment against Radovan Karadzic and his 12-year hiding. All this media rubbish about Karadzic's arrest and extradition to The Hague would have been grotesque was it not bloodcurdling. It serves the same purpose as those bulldozers smashing the bones of the killed in Potocari and scattering them all over the surrounding hillside and ditches, as a contributor to the "Beton" supplement of the Danas daily lucidly remarked.

The goal has always been the same: to hush up the ten years when our hand were covered with blood, and conceal them with snows, rosemary and hay.


Boxed text


Of all the members of the International Committee for the Defense of Radovan Karadzic the media, of course, feature the most Professor Kosta Cavoski, always smiling and always willing to decrease the number of victims from the other side and increase the number of Serb martyrs. In his article carried by the Politika daily, yet another professor at the Belgrade Law School, Milan Skulic, expounds "the most appropriate" defense for Karadzic.

He also denies the Srebrenica genocide. However, says Skulic, the defense could insist on the responsibility of the United Nations and the Holland battalion given that Srebrenica had been a protected zone. He also questions the number of victims in Srebrenica for, as he says, "that many corpses have not been found there."

In the membership of the International Committee for the Defense of Radovan Karadzic are, among others, Brana Crncevic, Momo Kapor, Gojko Djogo, Miroslav Toholj, all of them well-known Karadzic's friends, senators and advisers.



Radovan Karadzic (63), former president of Republika Srpska, is indicted by the ICTY for the crimes committed in Bosnia-Herzegovina from July 1, 1991 till November 30, 1995. He is also accused of planning the crimes he knew had taken place but did nothing to prevent them.

He is indicted on eleven counts: the first six counts relate to the genocide in Srebrenica, involvement in the genocide, liquidations, ethnic cleansing, killings and premeditated murders; the seventh count relates to prosecutions, the eight and the ninth to deportations, the tenth to terror against civilians in Sarajevo, while the eleventh to taking UN troops hostages.


NO 121-122

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