News 18 Apr 11

Serb Journalist Hits Headlines Over War Reporting

A video of a Serb journalist interviewing a Bosniak in Srebrenica in July 1995 has gone viral in Bosnia, with the reporter, Slobodan Vaskovic, facing serious criticism.

Drazen Remikovic
Banja Luka

A video of Vaskovic, who worked as a reporter in the predominantly Serb Republika Srpska during the war, shows him interviewing a resident of Potocari, near Srebrenica, on July 12, 1995.

Vaskovic, who told Balkan Insight that the video footage is authentic, rose to prominence after the war for his reporting for the public television station in Bosnia's mainly Bosniak-Croat entity, the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, in particular for his sharp criticism of the leaders of Republika Srpska.

The raw, unedited video of the interview was posted on You Tube one week ago, and has since received over 85,000 hits. The footage shows Vaskovic, who worked for the Republika Srpska radio station at that time, and a few other journalists speaking with Abdulah Purkovic Dulac, a resident of the town.

In the video, a visibly frightened Purkovic, panic-stricken because of what he had experienced in Srebrenica, begins to recount the events taking place in the town and its surroundings, but the reporters quickly interrupt and ask him to change his story.

As the interview begins, Dulac tells the reporters that residents are surprised with the situation in Srebrenica, and that people have begun to panic.

A journalist then interrupts Dulac, and tells him he should say that "people are happy because the Serb army released them from Islamic terorists".

Vaskovic then asks Dulac: "Is it true that Naser Oric also killed you Muslims?" Oric was the leader of the Bosnian Army in Srebrenica.

"How many and who was the greatest war criminal in the Srebrenica area? Give me their first and last names," Vaskovic says.

After being told to change his story, Dulac tells the reporters: "The people are so happy now, they have been released and are relaxed, there's been enough of the Naser Oric terror."

“The Serb army acted appropriately,” he continues, “and Naser Oric was killing us too...."

After the footage was released, Purkovic told media that he had received death threats before the camera was switched on. “I had to talk about the situation as they told me, otherwise, they  would kill me,” Purkovic told RTRS, the public broadcaster in RS.
The expulsion of thousands of Bosniaks and the massacre of thousands of men took place in the days before and after the interview.

Following the release of the footage, Vaskovic was fired from his post at Federation Television, where he worked for the 60 Minutes programme.

Vaskovic told Balkan Insight that he was indeed in Srebrenica as a radio reporter when the footage was taken, but said he did not know what was going on there.
“There is no blood on my hands and I call on any investigative authority, if they have any evidence against me, to prosecute me and I am willing to answer.

“Today, after so many years, I am aware of what I've done and I deeply apologize to Mr Purkovic from the tape,” Vaskovic told Balkan Insight.

He stressed that he was not the only journalist who reported in such “an unprofessional manner” during the war, adding that there were others who were worse.

“Propaganda journalism ruled on all three sides in Bosnia. Now, I am exposed to horrific attacks from everybody, but that's okay.”

Bakir Hadziomerovic, the editor of 60 Minutes, has said that he found out about the video a month ago, and that the editors then decided to dismiss Vaskovic.

He called the footage “horrible”, and said any man should be condemned for it.

The video of Vaskovic is particularly hot news in Bosnia because he is an ethnic Serb journalist who has been extremely critically of the RS government, investigating and reporting on alleged criminal activity by current leaders. He has been celebrated in Sarajevo for his journalism, and criticised in Banja Luka, the de facto capital of Republika Srpska.

He has accused the authorities in RS of threatening him over his critical reports, charges they have denied.

Vaskovic was born in Sarajevo and than moved to Pale, the logistical and administrative of Serb forces during the war, where he worked as an editor of the folk music show “Svilen konac” (Silk thread).

He founded the weekly newspaper Patriot in the years following the war, a publication seen as very supportive of the RS government.

Vaskovic became an outspoken critic of the RS leadership in 2006, when the government of Milorad Dodik came to power.

More than 8,000 Bosniaks were killed by Serb forces in Srebrenica in July 1995, several rulings of the UN war crimes court have found. An International Court of Justice ruling in 2007 concluded that genocide was committed in Srebrenica by Bosnian Serb military forces against the Bosniak population.

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Srebrenica: Genocide Reconstructed

In July 1995 Srebrenica was shelled and occupied by the Army of Republic of Srpska,VRS, despite being declared a protected area by the United Nations. More than 7,000 people were killed, the victims of genocide.

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The Bosnian Serb commander’s role in the genocide committed in Srebrenica is described in detail in many indictments and verdicts pronounced before local and international judicial institutions.

The Indictment Against Ratko Mladic

Indictments in 1995 and 2000, further amended in 2002 and 2010, charge the former commander of the Republika Srpska Army with genocide and other crimes.

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