According to the BBC dictionary (1993) disinformation is untruth, or misleading information, especially the kind of information which was published by a government or political organisation in order to arouse suspicion about another party and in order to diminish the credibility of someone or something. And a LIE is what someone says in the knowledge that it is not true. So when someone is called a liar according to this definition, it is not in fact an insult but a statement of the truth. If someone tried to write a book about disinformation and lies against the Serbs during the recent civil-ethnic-religious war and now, the number of volumes would exceed the Encyclopaedia Britannica. How many pages would be devoted only to the myths of “Croatian Vukovar”, to the inventions of Slovenian and foreign media about a few days of the war in summer 1991. Rape, murder, explosions in Sarajevo, Srebrenica etc. — these are all terrible things, where no one is free from guilt, but a lie cannot erase human suffering. The image of Mr. Genscher and all those who brought on the destruction of Yugoslavia and the new hatred in its nations should always be seen behind the destruction and the dead.
Part of the BBC's disinformation was somewhat more subtle. At the start of the BH tragedy head reporter Kate Addie successfully used the concept of “good guys and bad guys”: the Serbs were a priori the bad guys. The BBC reports the bombing of Sarajevo, the dead and the wounded. It is the sad truth. But it does not report (at least only rarely) that bombs did not only fall on the Muslim areas of the city but also on the Serb districts, where they also took lives. This was not a lie, but it was dishonest and biased. But not even the BBC was without “gross” disinformation, when, for example, in summer 1992 it reported completely unverified stories that Serb snipers received 300 pounds sterling for every Muslim child killed. A naive humanitarian aid worker Steve Watts heard it from Croats and Muslims in a convoy to Sarajevo, and Croat newspapers had been writing about it. Watts told BBC reporters and the BBC immediately reported it, without verifying it, on programmes with large audiences. Why verify, when the Serbs are the “bad guys”.
A “beautiful” lie is linked to the attractive CNN reporter of Iranian origin, Christiane Amanpour. On 22nd December 1992 she reported from Kiseljak, not far from Sarajevo. With a Croat and Muslim population, undamaged, in Croat hands, well supplied with everything. “While people in Sarajevo are dying from starvation, the Serbs are living here in plenty.” That is how she put it. It was a massive lie, with malicious intent, because some American from Nebraska obviously did not know that there were no Serbs in Kiseljak. By and large, Christiane Amanpour was a true apostle of disinformation which she was evidently not ashamed of; uninformed people must have trusted the sad look on her face. It was not for nothing that she was one of the best paid reporters. She received an ironical mention from the American four-star general “Chuck” Boyd (see above) and lieutenant colonel of American military intelligence John E. Sray (see above), who wrote about how she had launched a fierce assault on General Rose for not stopping the “Serb aggression on Gorazde”.
Lieutenant-colonel John E. Sray is almost horrified by the lack of professionalism of another American reporter (ABC TV) Peter Jennings, whose report of 24th April 1995 is full of unreliable accusations and witnesses relating to Gorazde, “the town where the Serbs are murdering”. Whilst viewers can ultimately capture a little of the truth in spite of C. Amanpour's bias, on screen Jennings acts self-important, as if he had discovered God knows what truths. Naturally he, too, harangues General Rose from UNPROFOR. Jennings also reminded viewers how the Serbs had massacred the Muslim settlement of Ahmici, as an example which is mentioned in the war crimes tribunal in The Hague, in an attempt to name the Serb culprits as suspects. It is true that ABC corrected this invention the next day and announced that the Ahmic massacre was earned out by Croats, but for the millions of viewers who did not hear this correction the Serbs remained the guilty party. SKYNEWS reported something similar in autumn 1992 (the author saw it himself). On the screen a commentator showed “the funeral of Muslims murdered by the Serbs”. The “mistake” was that the ceremony was conducted by a bearded Orthodox priest, surrounded by Orthodox crosses. Apparently SKYNEWS corrected this “mistake” the next day, but how many hundreds of thousands did not hear it and failed to see through the lie.
Some forms of disinformation (lies) take one's breath away, because it is not clear whether they are born from stupidity, ignorance or an extreme impudence to have the lie believed because it is relying on the ignorance of readers, viewers and listeners. It is widely known, it was even admitted by the Croat authorities, that on 8th November 1993 a Croat tank's missile destroyed the charming Old Bridge across the Neretva liver in Mostar during the fighting between Croats and Muslims. But the French monthly magazine ACTUEL published an article in its double issue (December 1993 — January 1994) called “People, Monuments, All is Transient”, which describes the bridge's sad fate. “Torn apart, destroyed, smashed by Serb artillery in Vukovar (!!), it no longer exists. A strategic place which the Serbs did away with, the bridge in Vukovar was an architectural wonder of the 17th century. It was part of the architectural and historical legacy of the Croat town blah blah blah.” So Actuel, either out of ignorance or intentionally, confused Mostar with Vukovar, the 17th century with the 16th century and turned Mostar into a Croat town. I wonder how many French readers realised that this was rubbish? But even the American NEWSWEEK at the start of 1994 had the Old Mostar Bridge destroyed by the Serbs (3rd January 1994). This was obviously a case of a lie with malicious intent. The Czech station TV PRIMA also included this kind of disinformation in its reports about the Mostar bridge (29th September 1997, 19:00): “In November 1993 the bridge, which Serbs and Croats had bombed in 1992, finally collapsed into the water.” According to TV PRIMA the bridge somehow collapsed on its own, without that Croat grenade.
There were many centres of the anti-Serb propaganda in Germany. One of them was the well known newspaper die Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, with its editor Mr. Johann-Georg Reissmuller, an arch-enemy of the Serbs who spread a lot of hatred and disinformations about them. He did not find in them any feeling for true values, their orthodox church was, according to him, just spreading their imperialist ideas. He wrote extensively (e.g., on 8th December 92) about then alleged prison-camp brothels, Serbian sex-mania and the desire to humiliate. His articles are filled with bombastic, anti-Serbian tirades, with almost racist phrases in them. But not all Germans are like him. A group of Austrian, French, German, American, Swiss and Yugoslav intellectuals and journalists published a book in Berlin, edited by Mr. Klaus Bittermann “Serbia must die” (Klaus Bittermann Publ., Thiamat, Berlin, 1994).
The book was originally published in the German, to be later translated into English, Greek and Serbian. All those who trusted the flood of disinformations and inaccuracies published, mostly by the western media, about the events in Yugoslavia, should read it. The book will open their eyes, they will be informed about the other side of the events there. They surely will feel insulted by those who spread so many lies and fabrications, by a big part of the western media and of the western politicians.
Not only Mr. Vulliamy wrote a lot of historical nonsense in his “Seasons in Hell” (see earlier). Professor C. G. Jacobsen (see earlier) quotes another “expert” on Bosnia's history: “The New York Times Pulitzer Prize winning Bosnia correspondent talked of Bosnia's 1,000 years of inter-ethnic and religious peace, betraying a historical ignorance so profound as to make flat earth believers look omniscient.” (Mr. John Burns was a New York Times correspondent in Bosnia, he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize). And millions of men and women all over the world trusted him. How was it possible to give such people such a prestigious prize? Was it just ignorance of those who had awarded it, or was their intention to discredit even more the Serbs and their leaders? Was the award given for political reasons?
Cruel things happened during the civil-ethnic-religious war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, nobody was completely innocent. But some reporters, when trying to make their reports as authentic as possible, could make them somewhat ridiculous. Mr. Robert Fisk published many articles in The Independent, some of them about the horrible experiences of the raped Muslim women — from hearsay and double hearsay, naturally, most of them. In his article “The rapes went on day and night” (Independent, 8th February 93) he described an “interesting” detail: — “When the Serbs doubted the claim of two women that they were pregnant, they took them to a hospital for a pregnancy test. Only after the test proved positive, were they spared...” (because the “Chetniks” wanted to make them pregnant and for this reason, according to Mr. Fisk, did not rape them — if they were already pregnant). Mr. Fisk was too credulous. Because at that time when there were no antibiotics, no anaesthetics, no analgesics, etc in the Bosnian hospitals, including Kalinovik, the idea about the availability of pregnancy tests sounds really ridiculous. Even if a part of his report from hearsay or double hearsay was true, the inclusion of the pregnancy tests into the story made it much less “digestible” for the non-naive.
On 15th December 93 a Prague newspaper Lidove Noviny (owned now by the Germans) published a pamphlet, headed Bosnia and Herzegovina. It was full of informations and much more of disinformations, with introductory remarks by the international financial shark G. Soros (his machinations robbed the British taxpayer of more than one billion pounds in the early nineties). His anti-Serbian attitudes were matched quite well by the words of Otto von Habsburg, the grandson of Francis-Joseph I, the emperor of Austria-Hungary, whose army brutally massacred thousands of Serb civilian in 1914-16, whose armies occupied in 1878, after the Berlin Congress, Bosnia and Herzegovina, against the will of their Serb and Muslim inhabitants. The Swiss university professor of criminology R. A. Reiss published a book about the horrible atrocities of the Austro-Hungarian army in Serbia (How Austria-Hungary waged war in Serbia. Personal investigations of a neutral. A. Colin, Paris, 1915), with a lot of photos. The “instant expert” on Yugoslavia Mr. Marjanovic was in the pamphlet present naturally too, attributing his various fabrications to the catholic archbishop of Belgrade Th. Dr. F. Perko. Especially full of disinformations was the Chronology of Events by Mr. I. Blazevic, T. Marjanovic, S. Panek, F. Tesar. The most undemocratic and disgusting was the fact that there was no way to publish a critique, to disclose the fabrications, to tell the other side of the story. It was like in the old “bolshevik” times, or during the rule of Hitler. The official line, proclaimed by the West, had not to be changed.
The ignorance or the “received wisdom” may account for very bizzare statements, conclusions. A shining example of it is an interview in a Czech periodical Stredni Evropa in may 1992, with the Slovene journalist Viktor Blazic. He was interviewed by Mr. Z. Hejda, L. Bednar, J. Mlejnek, with a simultaneous translation by Mr. T. Marjanovic, the “instant expert on Yugoslavia, especially on Bosnia”. One of the questions was: “What was the background of the execution of cardinal Stepinac in Zagreb after the World War II?” Oddly enough, the cardinal was not executed at all, he died in 1960 of leukaemia in his native Krasic, where he had been confined after his trial. He was sentenced for his collaboration with the ustasha regime of Ante Pavelic. The crimes of the catholic church in the fascist Croatian state (1941-45) against the Serbs who lived there for centuries, are described by a Croatian academic Viktor Novak in his MAGNUM CRIMEN (The Big Crime), an extensive publication of 1.119 pages (Zagreb, 1948, reprint Nova knjiga, Beograd, 1986). It was just announced (October 98) that Pope John Paul II really beatified the very controversial cardinal during his visit to Croatia in 1998. During 1941-45 more than 600 catholic priests and monks took part in expelling the Serbs from their homes, compelling the orthodox Serbs to switch to the Catholicism, even in killing them. On 18th may 1943 the archbishop of Zagreb (not yet cardinal) A. Stepinac informed pope Plus XII that 240,000 orthodox Serbs were converted to Catholicism — they were forced to do it under the threat of death.
And such examples would fill many books.
It would be fair and just to prepare a sort of “black list” of all those who spread lies and disinformations, who helped to create hatred, who wrote literary rubbish full of inaccuracies, in connection with tragic events in the former Yugoslavia both from ignorance and for money. Thousands would be included, very many of them from the most famous newspapers. As Reno Urbini (whom we already quoted) wrote in the Italian Epoca (in 1993), quoting a BBC journalist: — “The Editors-in-Chief of some newspapers should be condemned as war criminals.” Very many reporters should be added to them.
But, luckily, there are many books that try to be fair and honest, and truthful — and they really are. Why not to read them and wash away all the disinformations that piled up during the years 1991-98?