News 07 Jul 17

Croatian Serbs ‘Ostracised’ by Mainstream Media

Research of Croatian daily media coverage showed that the issues of the country’s Serb minority are under-represented, and that they are not given the opportunity to voice their problems.

Sven Milekic
BIRN
Zagreb
A smashed Latin-Cyrillic sign in Vukovar. Photo: Beta.

The Serbian National Council, SNV NGO will present research in Zagreb on Friday that shows that the issues of the country’s Serb minority are not properly covered in Croatia’s mainstream daily newspapers.

‘Production of the Other: Serbs in Croatian Daily Newspapers’ analyses more than 1,500 articles dealing with Serb-related issues from the five most-read daily newspapers in Croatia - Vecernji list, Jutarnji list, Novi list, Slobodna Dalmacija and Glas Slavonije.

“In Croatia, the media did not create a space for the Serbian minority to speak [about their problems]; usually somebody else speaks in their name… a voice would very rarely be given to a person who lives that experience,” one of the SNV researchers who wrote the publication, Nina Colovic, told BIRN.

This opened up space “for assumptions and constructed perception” of the Croatian Serb minority’s situation, leading “to various further distortions, manipulation and diminishing” of Serbs’ issues and to “not showing how they live”, Colovic explained.

The articles that were analysed were published in 2015, which was significant because presidential, parliamentary and minority representative elections were held in Croatia that year.

2015 was also important for the Serb minority because of the 20th anniversary of Croatia’s military operation ‘Storm’ – when large-scale war crimes were committed against Serb civilians and around 200,000 Serbs left the country – and due to problems caused by the changing of the statute of the wartime flashpoint town of Vukovar, which prevented the use of Cyrillic script on local public signage.

Colovic cited the case of one newspaper which published a report on the introduction of the Cyrillic alphabet in the municipality of Vojnic, but only quoted the opinions of local Croats on the issue.

In reports about the 20th anniversary of Operation Storm, “romanticised language was used, glorifying the victory” and constantly “constructing Serbs as a permanent threat that could be constantly defeated” in symbolic terms, Colovic further noted.

All the country’s minorities are not seen by mainstream media “as something belonging to Croatia”, she said.

The cumulative effect of such reporting could “steer ethnic tensions” towards Serbs and other minorities, she added.

All the articles were statistically analysed, and a critical analysis of the language used was also carried out.

In a number of articles – both opinion and news pieces – “linguistic violence and violence in language” was identified, as well as articlse that “don’t use hate speech directly, but can build up and in that way create an atmosphere that incites violence” towards minority groups, Colovic.

She further noted that only one article about elections for national minorities’ representatives was published – “completely missing the date of the elections”.

Since the 1990s war, when Croatian forces fought rebel Croatian Serbs helped by the Yugoslav People’s Army, tensions between the Croatian majority and the Serb minority have persisted.

The Serb minority mostly resides in underdeveloped regions of Croatia, while their numbers have fallen from 581,000 in 1991, before the war, to 186,000 in 2011.

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