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Decreasing Interest in War-crimes Reporting

Journalists and editors of public broadcasting services from former-Yugoslavia believe that interest in war-crimes reporting among the general public is decreasing.

On the second day of a regional conference on "Transparency of Courts and Responsibility of the Media", organized by the Balkans Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN, in Sarajevo, editors and journalists of public broadcasting services from Croatia, Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina said they expected interest in war-crimes reporting to decline even further in the future.

Bojan Brkic, Editor of Radio Television Serbia, RTS, said that commercial media stations are no longer interested in the topic. Josip Saric, a journalist with Croatian Radio and Television, HRT, said that "no one should maintain the illusion that public interest in war-crimes reporting will grow".

Emir Habul, Editor of BH Radio 1, said that media in Bosnia and Herzegovina rely exclusively on specialized agencies when it comes to reporting on war crimes, adding that if it had not been for these agencies, the public would be "in a media blockade".

"We are not capable of establishing a satisfactory relation towards war crimes reporting," Habil said. Saric agreed with this, adding that HRT has not fulfilled its role as a public broadcasting service in terms of reporting on war crimes.

On the other hand, Erna Mackic of the Association of Court Reporters, AIS, argued that the public continues to be interested in war-crimes trials, adding that families of victims and other individuals are present in the courtrooms of the State Court on a daily basis in order to listen to war-crimes testimonies.

Mackic and James Rodehaver, Chief of the Human Rights Section with the OSCE Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina, pointed to the fact that the Bosnian media is selective when reporting on war crimes, limiting their reporting to the arrest of suspects, the pronouncement of verdicts and other "interesting developments".

"I believe that there has never been any public interest in war crimes. All societies are still in the denial phase. They consider themselves as victims. Interest in what happened during the course of the past war is still to come," said Mirko Klarin, Director and Editor of SENSE Agency.

On the second day of the Conference, participants discussed the responsibility and reliability of the media in terms of war-crimes reporting. Hague Tribunal Spokesperson Nerma Jelacic said it was necessary to respect court decisions on the confidentiality of certain pieces of information, also stating that "freedom of the press must be practised together with responsibility".

"The institutions are feeding the non-responsibility of journalists by giving them access to confidential documents. On the other hand, journalists turn to tabloidism and publish those documents to increase circulation. The motive cannot be defined as freedom of press. If we accept the game and go round the legal procedure, there will be no long-term healing of this profession," said Gordana Igric, Regional Director of BIRN.

On the third day of the Conference, September 3, a workshop will be convened for media representatives. Journalists from the Balkans will have a chance to share experiences of war-crimes reporting, including common mistakes in court reporting, and court terminology and procedures, as well as indictees'

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