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International Justice/ICTY: Oct/Nov ‘09

Leading human rights activist says IWPR’s even-handed coverage of Karadzic trial important in Serbia where much media reporting on Hague cases is selective.
By IWPR
Commentators in former Yugoslavia have singled out the objectivity and balance of IWPR’s reporting of two key recent developments in the region – the start of the trial of the former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and the early release from prison of one his former allies, Biljana Plavsic.



The Karadzic trial officially started on October 27 with the opening brief of the prosecution. The accused – who is representing himself – refused to attend the proceedings because he claimed he hadn’t had enough time to prepare his case. He had demanded an extra ten months to work on his defence, but the request was turned down by both the trial and the appeals judges.




Because the proceedings couldn’t continue without Karadzic’s presence in court, the trial has been adjourned until March 1, 2010. In order to prevent further delays, the judges recently appointed a stand-by counsel who will take over Karadzic’s defence if he fails to appear in court in March.




In addition to the coverage of the proceedings against Karadzic, IWPR published analysis of new developments in this case, as well as problems related to it, such as the self-representation of the accused.



“IWPR articles on the start of Karadzic’s trial are very interesting, informative and provide a comprehensive overview of this case. I particularly like the fact that in every article IWPR has a few paragraphs about the indictment, and thus reminds the readers of the main charges against Karadzic,” said Dragana Erjavec, a Sarajevo-based reporter with the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN.



Slobodan Beljanski, a lawyer from Novi Sad, said IWPR has been covering Karadzic's trial “correctly”, informing readers of the range of expert opinion on all relevant legal issues.



“Your articles [on the Karadzic case] are full of information and very objective,” Beljanski said.



President of Youth Initiative for Human Rights in Serbia Maja Stojanovic said IWPR’s balanced approach to the coverage of the trial is particularly important for Serbian audiences.



“I believe it is necessary to report on this case the way IWPR does it, because reporting of this trial in most media in Serbia is driven by what audiences want to know. As a result, key information on the tribunal's work and crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia is absent in these reports. IWPR, on the other hand, provides information crucial for speeding up the process of facing up to the past and achieving justice for victims,” she said.



More generally, Stojanovic said she was impressed with IWPR’s overall coverage of Hague tribunal cases.



“An important characteristic of IWPR’s articles is that they offer space for victims and look back at their reactions to trials, which is very important in creating a wider picture of the Hague tribunal and crimes that were committed in the territory of the former Yugoslavia,” she said.




Stojanovic was also complimentary of IWPR’s coverage of Plavsic’s controversial return to Belgrade, following her early release from a Swedish prison.





Plavsic turned herself into the tribunal in 2001, charged with complicity in genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. She subsequently pleaded guilty to one count of persecution and in return all other charges against her, including genocide, were dropped.



The 79-year-old served two-thirds of her 11-year sentence before being granted an early release under Swedish law.



She flew into Belgrade on a private Bosnian Serb government plane, and was greeted at the airport by the Bosnian Serb prime minister Milorad Dodik himself. Local reporters flocked around her to ask her how it felt to be home after so many years.



“I think IWPR was very objective in reporting on this event. The fact that they include reactions from the whole region is very important and I believe it contributes to the overall objectivity of the reporting and increases its impact on the audience in the region,” Stojanovic said.



Beljanski added, “IWPR provided a professional and balanced coverage of this event, unlike most media in Serbia whose reports on Plavsic were full of trivia and pure sensationalism."

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