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PRESERVING THE ITEMS THAT WITNESSED HISTORY

Propaganda During the Yugoslav Wars

Propaganda During the Yugoslav Wars

The events during the Yugoslav wars were often confusing and misinterpreted, as were the ones that led to the conflict itself. A permanent propaganda campaign was maintained by all sides involved throughout the whole war, starting during the nationalist leaders’ period of rising to power. Journalists were the tool in the hands of the Yugoslav warmongers, spreading their distorted worldview with the help of often contradictory and bizarre media information.

 

For the duration of its existence, Yugoslavia was notorious for its use of propaganda. The state was the owner of radio and television stations and the daily press, therefore the published pieces of information were under the strict control of the ruling Communist Party. During that period, the media aimed at bringing Yugoslavia's different nationalities together in the spirit of "brotherhood and unity."  Revived ethnic tensions emerged in the years following Yugoslav dictators Tito's death, largely contributed by the media activities, who came under nationalist control. The nationalist leaders in Serbia and Croatia were seen as the saviors from the growing economic and social crisis, therefore they began accumulating power in the second half of the eighties.

 

The rise to power of Slobodan Milošević, the Serbian wartime leader, beginning with a single propaganda event in 1987; during a speech in the town Kosovo Polje, clashes between the gathered Serbs and Yugoslav police of mostly Albanian descent erupted. Milošević’s words – Nobody should beat you – were broadcasted on television, and he became the most popular politician in Serbia. That’s the beginning of Milošević’s control of the media, which became complete by the early 1990es.

 

On the other side of Yugoslavia, Milošević’s Croatian counterpart, Franjo Tuđman, has led a successful campaign for Croatian independence, on the wings of historic revisionism and Croatian victimhood. Huge financial funds were designated for creating an image of Tuđman as a democrat, anti-communist leader, influencing public opinion, and gaining the support of the Governments and the media in the West.

 

Since the beginning of the first military operations in 1991, all the involved sides intensified their propaganda efforts. Military successes were exaggerated, as well as the number of enemy forces and victims, and the losses were minimized. The conflicted armies tended to accuse each other of war crimes against civilians and POWs and destruction of cultural heritage while whitewashing their wartime atrocities.  The media on each side had the tendency to fuel the war flame, writing stories about WW2 atrocities in Yugoslavia and drawing parallels to current events. The most interesting examples of wartime propaganda came from the Serbian media. The Serbian siege of Croatian town Dubrovnik was justified with the claim that 30.000 Croatian soldiers and 7000 foreign mercenaries were located in the town, while the town was demilitarized and there were no military soldiers located in the area. Another specific example happened in 1994, when Serbian daily newspaper, Večernje Novosti (The Evening News) published a picture of a 19th-century painting and portrayed it as a Serbian child victim in the Bosnian war.  The propaganda used by UN peacekeepers in Bosnia was broadcasted through television and radio shows, and disarmament and mine awareness leaflets were airdropped. After the war, the USA embassy in Bosnia funded a wanted poster leaflet campaign, offering a 5 million dollar reward for the information of the wartime Serbian leaders' whereabouts.

 

The media in Western Europe and the United States often used propaganda when reporting on the Yugoslav wars. The United States portrayed the wartime events according to their strategic interests. Prior to the Dayton peace agreement in 1995, Serbian president Milošević was nicknamed by the Western media as the "the butcher of the Balkans" and after that, the media changed its narrative, and Milošević was portrayed as "essential for maintaining peace and stability in the Balkans".

 

Propaganda was distributed by all sides in the final phase of the Yugoslav wars, the Kosovo war. During the NATO aggression on FR Yugoslavia, around 105 million propaganda leaflets were dropped from aircraft into the Serbian territory, intended for different target groups from soldiers to civilians. The leaflets were calling the Yugoslav Army soldiers to desert their posts, and civilians to overthrow Milosević’s government. Except for leaflets, NATO distributed propaganda through radio and television broadcasts. In the USA media, numbers of Kosovo war causalities were largely exaggerated, to acquire the public's support for military intervention. During the bombing, the Serbian government has started a series of public events as a counter measure, where a target sign consisting of a black bull's-eye surrounded by two concentric circles, was displayed and worn on clothes. This propaganda campaign had the goal of creating unity among Serbs and making fun of the NATO air force. The other forms of Serbian Anti-NATO propaganda during the war were different postcards and posters.

 

The events during the Yugoslav wars were often confusing and misinterpreted, as were the ones that led to the conflict itself. A permanent propaganda campaign was maintained by all sides involved throughout the whole war, starting during the nationalist leaders’ period of rising to power. Journalists were the tool in the hands of the Yugoslav warmongers, spreading their distorted worldview with the help of often contradictory and bizarre media information.

 

For the duration of its existence, Yugoslavia was notorious for its use of propaganda. The state was the owner of radio and television stations and the daily press, therefore the published pieces of information were under the strict control of the ruling Communist Party. During that period, the media aimed at bringing Yugoslavia's different nationalities together in the spirit of "brotherhood and unity." Revived ethnic tensions emerged in the years following Yugoslav dictators Tito's death, largely contributed by the media activities, who came under nationalist control. The nationalist leaders in Serbia and Croatia were seen as the saviors from the growing economic and social crisis, therefore they began accumulating power in the second half of the eighties.

 

The rise to power of Slobodan Milošević, the Serbian wartime leader, beginning with a single propaganda event in 1987; during a speech in the town Kosovo Polje, clashes between the gathered Serbs and Yugoslav police of mostly Albanian descent erupted. Milošević’s words – Nobody should beat you – were broadcasted on television, and he became the most popular politician in Serbia. That’s the beginning of Milošević’s control of the media, which became complete by the early 1990es.

 

On the other side of Yugoslavia, Milošević’s Croatian counterpart, Franjo Tuđman, has led a successful campaign for Croatian independence, on the wings of historic revisionism and Croatian victimhood. Huge financial funds were designated for creating an image of Tuđman as a democrat, anti-communist leader, influencing public opinion, and gaining the support of the Governments and the media in the West.

 

Since the beginning of the first military operations in 1991, all the involved sides intensified their propaganda efforts. Military successes were exaggerated, as well as the number of enemy forces and victims, and the losses were minimized. The conflicted armies tended to accuse each other of war crimes against civilians and POWs and destruction of cultural heritage while whitewashing their wartime atrocities. The media on each side had the tendency to fuel the war flame, writing stories about WW2 atrocities in Yugoslavia and drawing parallels to current events. The most interesting examples of wartime propaganda came from the Serbian media. The Serbian siege of Croatian town Dubrovnik was justified with the claim that 30.000 Croatian soldiers and 7000 foreign mercenaries were located in the town, while the town was demilitarized and there were no military soldiers located in the area. Another specific example happened in 1994, when Serbian daily newspaper, Večernje Novosti (The Evening News) published a picture of a 19th-century painting and portrayed it as a Serbian child victim in the Bosnian war. The propaganda used by UN peacekeepers in Bosnia was broadcasted through television and radio shows, and disarmament and mine awareness leaflets were airdropped. After the war, the USA embassy in Bosnia funded a wanted poster leaflet campaign, offering a 5 million dollar reward for the information of the wartime Serbian leaders' whereabouts.

 

The media in Western Europe and the United States often used propaganda when reporting on the Yugoslav wars. The United States portrayed the wartime events according to their strategic interests. Prior to the Dayton peace agreement in 1995, Serbian president Milošević was nicknamed by the Western media as the "the butcher of the Balkans" and after that, the media changed its narrative, and Milošević was portrayed as "essential for maintaining peace and stability in the Balkans".

 

Propaganda was distributed by all sides in the final phase of the Yugoslav wars, the Kosovo war. During the NATO aggression on FR Yugoslavia, around 105 million propaganda leaflets were dropped from aircraft into the Serbian territory, intended for different target groups from soldiers to civilians. The leaflets were calling the Yugoslav Army soldiers to desert their posts, and civilians to overthrow Milosević’s government. Except for leaflets, NATO distributed propaganda through radio and television broadcasts. In the USA media, numbers of Kosovo war causalities were largely exaggerated, to acquire the public's support for military intervention. During the bombing, the Serbian government has started a series of public events as a counter measure, where a target sign consisting of a black bull's-eye surrounded by two concentric circles, was displayed and worn on clothes. This propaganda campaign had the goal of creating unity among Serbs and making fun of the NATO air force. The other forms of Serbian Anti-NATO propaganda during the war were different postcards and posters.


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