Friday, April 23, 2010

Changing the rules of war: The NATO bombing of RTS on 23rd April 1999



It was arguably the biggest war crime committed against a civilian media institution and its workers in history.

Exactly 11 years ago today, on 23rd April 1999, NATO bombed Serbian Television (RTS), murdering 16 innocent people. British Minister, Clare Short claimed RTS, a station that regularly broadcast repeats of Only Fools and Horses, but which committed the ‘crime’ of challenging NATO's propaganda during the bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999, was a ‘legitimate target’.

The bombing as well as being an appalling war crime, set a terrible precedent.

As Robert Fisk, wrote at the time, ‘Once you kill people because you don’t like what they say, you have changed the rules of war'

Not only have those who ordered and carried this blatant war crime got off scot-free, but the puppet government in Belgrade, which came to power after the illegal US-sponsored coup d‘etat against President Milosevic and the Serbian Socialist Party in October 2000, put the RTS director Dragoljub Milanovic on trial and sentenced him to ten years imprisonment. Milanovic, a political prisoner if ever there was one, remains in prison to this day. He was effectively the 17th victim of the bombing- with his imprisonment a warning to all others who might have the temerity to run a media outlet which dares to challenge the lies of the most powerful military alliance in the world.

Here are the names of the sixteen innocent civilians murdered by NATO on 23rd April 1999. You will see that eleven of those killed were under 35 years of age. May they all rest in peace, and let us hope that some day those responsible for their deaths will finally face justice.

Darko Stoimenovski (26), technician
Nebojsa Stojanovic (27), technician
Dragorad Dragojevic (27), security guard
Ksenija Bankovic (28), video mixer
Jelica Munitlak (28), make-up artist
Dejan Markovic (30), security guard
Aleksandar Deletic (31), cameraman
Dragan Tasic (31), technician
Slavisa Stevanovic (32), producer
Sinisa Medic (33), programme designer
Ivan Stukalo (34), foreign programming specialist
Milan Joksimovic (47), security officer
Branislav Jovanovic (50), programme operator
Slobodan Jontic (54), set director
Milovan Jankovic (59), mechanic
Tomislav Mitrovic (61), programme director.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

The nazi scum who ordered this attack on unarmed civilians should be executed by firing squad, in my opinion.

Steve Hayes said...

I'm glad someone rebembered - thanks for the reminder.

Chris H said...

Interesting to note that the station director Dragoljub Milanovic got 10 years for not ordering the evacuation of the building, even though he supposedly knew it was going to be bombed. Tis an unbelievable state of affairs.

Misha Gavrilovic said...

The deliberate bombing of RTS was a world historical first by any standards. It is one thing to criticise NATO and the US, but surely Western journalists and writers should have realised that it was an attack on them and their media outlets as well and hence responded accordingly. The RTS station in Belgrade was a European media network node through which most Western reporters used to send transmit their reports to their home stations. Yet apart from a number of courageous voices (Robert Fisk among them and thank you Neil Clark) the mainstream media have concentrated hard on eradicating the event from history.

I have made a simple test of books by British (and US) journalists, Misha Glenny and Tim Judah among them, turned authors and ‘historians’ on the Balkans. Pretty well all of them have castigated the ‘Milosevic regime’ for oppressing the ‘free and independent media’ in Serbia, all of them financed of course by the US, often through one or other of its NATO allies and also more directly through EU grants. Virtually none however mention the NATO bombing even in a single sentence. Martin Bell, in a 2003 published book, is the only one I have been able to locate and the reference is limited. Tim Judah 10 years later in the 3rd edition of his book (‘The Serbs’) gives space to the plight under ‘Milosevic’ of Serbia’s ’independent media’ (all alive and operating a decade later) but still no reference to the NATO execution of a TV station and 16 of its staff. That has been sadly pretty much par for the course throughout Natoland.

To add insult to injury the ‘Serbian’ puppet government put the RTS Director, who himself narrowly escaped death at RTS, on trial where he received a 10-year prison sentence for the crime perpetrated by NATO. The sentencing of Dragoljub Milanovic on 21st June 2002 was immediately welcomed (!) by the Paris based Reporters Sans Frontiers (RSF) organisation (RSF/IFEX 24.06.02 press release - http://www.ifex.org/serbia/2002/06/24/former_head_of_serbian_radio_and/). Prior to that, RSF and various other organisations purporting to represent journalists had been spreading the story line that Milanovic was warned by NATO but had failed to act. However the same RSF was concerned enough to later (on 7th October 2002) visit NATO HQ in Brussels, specifically re the RTS bombing. There, NATO’s Assistant Secretary General, Edgar Buckley, told them that no warnings had been issued by NATO (see RSF/IFEX 09.10.02 press release - http://www.ifex.org/serbia/2002/10/10/rsf_meets_with_nato_leaders_over/a).

To further compound matters the Belgrade District Court that sentenced Milanovic emphasised that there was no reference in the charge against him that related to any NATO warning! Instead the prosecution produced an unsigned document that Milanovic had supposedly signed but where the original, it was claimed, was destroyed probably during the bombing itself. The document provides instructions, in case of war, for the RTS responsible to relocate operations out of the centre of Belgrade to the outskirts (RTS Kosutnjak location). Even then the document leaves it up to the Director to decide on whether the relocation should be carried out. At the time the document was written, no one in their wildest dreams could have imagined the type of bombing war that the US and its 18 NATO allies waged against Serbia. Belgrade was still thinking in terms of its WW2 experience when its was heavily bombed by the Nazi Luftwaffe.

A free Milanovic campaign, ideally supported by the NUJ, is well overdue!

Misha Gavrilovic said...

The deliberate bombing of RTS was a world historical first by any standards. It is one thing to criticise NATO and the US, but surely Western journalists and writers should have realised that it was an attack on them and their media outlets as well hence responded accordingly. The RTS station in Belgrade was a European media network node used by foreign journalists during the bombing to send reports to their home bases. Yet apart from a number of courageous voices (Robert Fisk among them and thank you Neil Clark) the mainstream media have concentrated hard on eradicating the event from history.

I have made a simple test of books by British (and US) journalists, Misha Glenny and Tim Judah among them, turned authors and ‘historians’ on the Balkans. Pretty well all of them have castigated the ‘Milosevic regime’ for oppressing the ‘free and independent media’ in Serbia, all of them financed of course by the US, often through one or other of its NATO allies and also directly through EU grants. Virtually none however mention the NATO bombing even in a single sentence. Martin Bell, in a 2003 published book, is the only one I have been able to locate and the reference is limited. Tim Judah 10 years later in the 3rd edition of his book (‘The Serbs’) gives space to the plight under ‘Milosevic’ of Serbia’s‘’independent media’ (all alive and operating a decade later) but still no reference to the NATO execution of a TV station and 16 of its staff. That has been sadly pretty much par for the course throughout Natoland.

To add insult to injury the ‘Serbian’ puppet government put the RTS Director, who himself narrowly escaped death at RTS, on trial where he received a 10-year prison sentence for the crime perpetrated by NATO. The sentencing of Dragoljub Milanovic on 21sr June 2002 was immediately welcomed (!) by the Paris based Reporters Sans Frontiers (RSF) organisation (RSF/IFEX 24.06.02 press release - http://www.ifex.org/serbia/2002/06/24/former_head_of_serbian_radio_and/). Prior to that, RSF and various other organisations purporting to represent journalists had been spreading the story line that Milanovic was warned by NATO but had failed to act. However the same RSF was concerned enough to later (on 7th October 2002) visit NATO HQ in Brussels, specifically re the RTS bombing. There, NATO’s Assistant Secretary General, Edgar Buckley, told them that no warnings had been issued by NATO (see RSF/IFEX 09.10.02 press release - http://www.ifex.org/serbia/2002/10/10/rsf_meets_with_nato_leaders_over/a).

To further compound matters the Belgrade District Court that sentenced Milanovic emphasised that there was no reference in the charge against him that related to any NATO warning! Instead the prosecution produced an unsigned document that Milanovic had supposedly signed but where the original, it was claimed, was destroyed, probably during the bombing itself. The document provides instructions, in case of war, for relocating operations out of the centre of Belgrade to the outskirts (RTS Kosutnjak location). Even then the document leaves it to the Director to decide on whether the relocation should be carried out. At the time the document was written, no one in their wildest dreams could have imagined the type of bombing war that the US and its 18 NATO allies waged against Serbia. Belgrade was still thinking in terms of its WW2 experience when its was heavily bombed by the Nazi Luftwaffe.

A free Milanovic campaign, ideally supported by the NUJ, is well overdue! It is very much in the interests of journalists worldwide.

R J Stove said...

Today is, as it happens, the nearest that Australia has to a day of national mourning: Anzac Day, marking this year the 95th anniversary of the Allies' military failure at Gallipoli.

Mr Clark's comments provide a further reason for us to say, "Lest we forget".

vladimir gagic said...

The worst and most insulting part of this was not even NATO's intentional, Al-Quida like bombing of civilians, but the way Jamie Shea and the Hague tribunal reacted to reporter's questions regarding the tribunal investigating NATO for targeting civilians. Shea, a self-avowed neoconservative, said NATO was not the least bit concerned about prosecution because NATO nations pay the Hague's bills; and the Hague refused to investigate NATO on the grounds Yugoslavia had been expelled from the UN and thus the tribunal had no jurisdiction to investigate. It's absolutely infuriating when I think about how self-righteous and smug Hague tribunal supporters, Westerners like Hoare or self-hating Serbs like Jovanovic, are.

Anonymous said...

How can we contact you Neil? Could you please reply.