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Two Sides of the Same Coin: Kosovo War Coverage

By American standards the Kosovo War of the late 90’s was a just war. Media coverage of the conflict between Serbian forces of the Republic of Yugoslavia and the ethnic Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army focused on the bodies.

Sebastian Junger reported on the conflict for Vanity Fair, in which he described an attack on an ethnically Albanian village,

Women and children took shelter until they realized it was only a matter of time before they were killed, and then they took their chances and ran through the gunfire into the woods. The men weren’t so lucky. Some fought back and others just hid; either way, they died. They died as their houses collapsed on them; they died as automatic-weapon fire ripped though the cinder-block walls; they died on their doorsteps as they tried to surrender.

These stories were usually accompanied by images like this:

The bodies of 23 ethnic Albanians killed by Serbs lie in a ditch in 1999

While the American media took the moral high ground, Yugoslav outlets experienced direct governmental censorship.

The Committee to Protect Journalists found that,

All of the print media in Yugoslavia now operate under formal censorship. On March 24, just as NATO began its bombing campaign, Serbian Information Minister Aleksandar Vucic called a meeting with the editors of all major newspapers in Belgrade, and announced that henceforth only officially authorized language could be used to describe certain events. For example, NATO must be described as the ‘aggressor,’ and the air strikes as ‘aggression’ against the Yugoslav state.

And yet, Yugoslav media echoed much of the same sentiments as American media, focusing on how NATO airstrikes affected civilian populations, as well as bodies left behind by the KLA.

Yugoslav coverage of NATO bombings

The key here is how international journalists and media are directly related to their place of origin, not only in what they say, but how they say it. Whether coerced or not, the media reflected the positions and interests of their home country.

How different are they really?