Politically correct bombing of media

Bomb al-Jazeera bad, bomb Serb media good?

This writer (for antiwar.com) complains about double standards, in the context of recent reports alleging Bush planned to or joked about bombing al-Jazeera:

"When NATO – with Clinton and Blair at the helm – bombed the headquarters of RTS (Serbian state television and radio) in central Belgrade on April 23, 1999, it was no joke. It was the real thing. In the middle of the night – at 2:20 a.m. – cruise missiles rained down on RTS headquarters, destroying the entrance and leaving at least one studio in ruins. Over 120 people were working in the building at the time; at least 16 were killed and another 16 were injured – all of them civilians, most of them technicians and support staff. The BBC's John Simpson described seeing "the body of a make-up artist … lying in a dressing room."This was an intentional attack on civilian workers in the media.

NATO officials talked openly, and without shame, about using such attacks as a means of scoring points in the propaganda war and further weakening President Slobodan Milosevic's hold on Serbia. NATO declared: "Strikes against TV transmitters and broadcast facilities are part of our campaign to dismantle the FRY propaganda machinery which is a vital part of President Milosevic's control mechanism."

Today journalists wonder whether or not Blair laughed at Bush's joke about bombing al-Jazeera. Never mind all that. Here is what Blair said – on the record and in public – about bombing and killing journalists in the Kosovo campaign: the media "is the apparatus that keeps [Milosevic] in power and we are entirely justified as NATO allies in damaging and taking on those targets."

Former British minister Clare Short – who resigned over the Iraq war and who now fancies herself an antiwar warrior – also justified the bombing of journalists in 1999. She said: "This is a war, this is a serious conflict, untold horrors are being done. The propaganda machine is prolonging the war and it's a legitimate target." Tell that to the family of the make-up girl.

The attacks were designed to cause maximum damage to the TV station and, in the words of one U.S. official, it was hoped that the bombings would have "maximum domestic and international propaganda value" for NATO.

The military journal Jane's Defense Weekly reported in July 2000 that NATO military planners assessed which parts of the TV headquarters were most likely to contain the controls for fire alarms and sprinkler systems – and the missiles were programmed to hit these spots so that the fire caused by the bombing would spread fast and prove difficult to put out....

And yet, outrage among journalists about this attack on fellow journalists was notable by its absence"

Read the whole thing here.

Click here to view the BBC's ho-hum a TV station got bombed, coverage.

::Addition #1: 9:43 p.m.::

Balkan Peace flashback:

"The Clinton Administration had warned it would bomb the Serbia TV station. In fact, on April 8, 1999, Larry King interviewed Miodrag Ilic, a former news anchor for the Serbian Broadcasting Corporation and a former talk show host who has worked on and off of the Serb network for over 20 years:

LARRY KING: "Mr. Ilic, can you tell us your reaction to the warning that we have learned tonight from NATO: that unless Serb television stations allow Western broadcast during two to three hour periods everyday, they would be bombed? NATO says Serb stations are used as propaganda. Your comments?"

MIODRAG ILIC, SERBIAN BROADCASTING CORP.: "What would you do, Larry, if you were me? We are professionals, and we perform our duty. You see this, moment, it is exactly 3:02 in the morning in Belgrade. And there are about between 800 and 900 people in this building. There are assistants, journalists, producers, members of the technical staff and so on. And we're performing our duty. We have no chance to do something else, you know? "

But if it happens, then it will be the deadly strike to the democracy, and I think it will be the beginning of the world slavery."

Reason Magazine flashback: Kosovo Liberation

Destruction of the Serb media.

Robert Fisk flashback on CNN allegedly receiving a forewarning:

"Two days before NATO bombed the Serb Television headquarters in Belgrade, CNN received a tip from its Atlanta headquarters that the building was to be destroyed. They were told to remove their facilities from the premises at once, which they did.

A day later, Serbian Information Minister Aleksander Vucic received a faxed invitation from the Larry King Live show in the U.S. to appear on CNN. They wanted him on the air at 2:30 in the morning of 23 April and asked him to arrive at Serb Television half an hour early for make-up.

Vucic was late — which was just as well for him since NATO missiles slammed into the building at six minutes past two. The first one exploded in the make-up room where a young Serb assistant was burned to death. CNN calls this all a coincidence, saying that the Larry King show, put out by the entertainment division, did not know of the news department’s instructions to it men to leave the Belgrade building."

::Addition #2 10:23 p.m: Another double standard::

Serb TV was accused of broadcasting propaganda, therefore it should be bombed -so said NATO. In Kosovo however, when ethnic Albanian media broadcasted propaganda and "incitement" (the word used in official reports) they got a rap on the wrist, and then extra funding and goodies from the IC (international community.)

More: When I flew up to Chicago to meet with my source Thomas Gambill, the Kosovo whistleblower, he showed me OSCE "media reports" (media monitoring)done by a French OSCE Media & Press Officer Chantal Lebrat (who Gambill praised).

On 1/8/00 she delivered a report on Radio Gjilane which said "the radio incites its listeners to expel the Serbs from their homes. The radio directs operatons from the 13th floor of the radio building. The radio also incites to destroy one statue -[and] plays [the forbidden] song of the March of the UCK [KLA]...broadcast at the same time."

The station was closed by KFOR the next day. Then opened back up immediately. The report notes that one "Sgt. Cockerel" then obtained "18,000 DM [Deutsche Marks] funding for the radio station." They use it to get a better transmitter and "small equipment."

Gee, that sounds better than getting bombed.

On 11/28/00 Lebrat reported the station played the outlawed song again. Journalists refuse to decline playing it. KFOR shut down the station. Soon thereafter UNMIK (United Nations Mission in Kosovo) announces the station will get "stipends" and a budget for equipment. And that OSCE helps them prepare a request.

Hey, definitely sounds better than getting a hot, pointy NATO missile lodged up your arse.

Lebrat is told to stop filing 'problem' negative reports documenting media incitement and propaganda, according to Gambill.

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