Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

International Justice/ICTY: Oct ‘08

Neutrality and thoroughness of IWPR war crimes justice programme highlighted in independent audience research findings.
Facing Justice – a radio show produced by IWPR and Radio Free Europe, RFE – has been commended by listeners in the region for its balanced broadcasting.

This month, the project team received the results of independent audience research conducted by international research organisation InterMedia at the request of RFE, with whom IWPR produces the weekly radio programme.

This study required respondents based in Bosnia and Montenegro to listen to and evaluate several RFE programmes, including Facing Justice. The monitoring panel in Bosnia consisted of seven panellists located in Sarajevo, Gorazde and Prijedor.

Respondents in Bosnia said they were satisfied with both the content and presentation of RFE’s programming, praising RFE and IWPR teams for providing credible, non-partisan information in a clear and accessible way.

Facing Justice broadcasts are placed in a clear context, making it easy to follow, said panellists.

“Most RFE items provide some background, giving listeners necessary information that enables them to understand them more easily – especially in the programme Facing Justice, where each item offers detailed background,” said one panellist.

Those questioned noted that Facing Justice paid attention to war crimes trials of suspects from all sides of the conflict, rather than identifying one or another group as the chief malefactors.

They also pointed out that unlike many local radio stations, Facing Justice covered trials of suspects of all ethnicities in a neutral way.

“For example, trials of Serb indictees are reported about differently in Republika Srpska, RS, than in the Bosnian Federation, not to mention reactions to these trials,” said one panellist.

“In Facing Justice, journalists neutrally – I might say almost coldly – presented facts on war crimes trials. When other media report on that, there is often concealed bias and, of course, they report differently about the accused depending on what side they belong to – Serb, Muslim, or Croat,” said another respondent.

Meanwhile, almost all panellists praised host and producer of Facing Justice Vlado Azinovic for his professionalism, knowledge and confident style.

“Bring all editors to Vlado Azinovic’s level,” suggested one.

In October, the project also conducted its own audience research, which showed the necessity of continuous, high-quality reporting on war-crimes-related issues.

“Facing the recent past adequately is a prerequisite for the stable future. The role of media in this process is extremely important because they are still the main source of information about the events from the recent war,” said Amer Dzihana from the Sarajevo Media Centre.

“I believe that a non-partisan approach to these issues deserves great support, because it contributes to the progress of our society as a whole.”

Vehid Sehic from the NGO Democratic Forum of Citizens commented on an IWPR article posted on October 10 – Foca: Unemployment Dashes Hopes of Bosniak Return, which was written by our Hague-based reporter Simon Jennings.

In the article, which was the result of a trip to the country this summer, Jennings explored the challenges Bosniak returnees to this eastern Bosnian town are facing 13 years after the war. Despite some terrible war crimes committed there, it turned out that the main obstacle to a more widespread return is not inter-ethnic tension, but a lack of work.

Sehic said that in drawing attention to the problem of high unemployment faced by returnees, IWPR was helping to create “a more positive atmosphere” for the population.

“Media and human rights activists constantly have to remind the government of the importance of solving the main problems the returnees are facing, such as employment, health care [and] social justice…,” he added.

According to Sehic, the government should be held under constant pressure from the media and NGOs in order for the situation to improve.

Sinan Alic from the non-governmental organisation Truth, Justice and Reconciliation agreed, saying that articles such as this one “can contribute to the improvement of the situation in places where there are returnees”.

“Focusing attention to this problem reminds the government that its work has not been completed yet,” said Alic.

“People should shift their focus from nationality-based issues and focus on real…problems that can be solved only through a higher employment rate, stronger economy, and improved quality of life for young people in these places.”

Journalist from Sarajevo Dragana Erjavec said that it is important to raise awareness of the problems returnees to Foca face.

“The media should report on those problems, and the non-governmental sector should provide a concrete help to the returnees,” said Erjavec.

“Unfortunately, the Bosnian government has not shown enough interest or determination to solve the problems of returnees, nor did it offer them any permanent solution. That’s why the role of the media and the NGO sector is so important.”

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