FOCUS: WAR IN EUROPE: Counting the corpses in a propaganda battle
Sunday 09 May 1999
This total appears accurate - as far as it goes. The official Serbian media have refrained from reckless claims about civilian deaths, although the authorities say at least 500 have been killed. Media figures for individual incidents have turned out to be more or less correct when foreign journalists have been in a position to verify them.
But this is still a propaganda war: where Western correspondents go, and what they see, are controlled by the Serbian authorities, who release information only when it helps their cause, casting them as the innocent victim of an aggressive, expansionist Nato. On several occasions, Nato has been forced to acknowledge that initial Serbian reports of a misdirected attack were accurate. Last Saturday, Nato admitted hitting a bus north of Kosovo's provincial capital, Pristina. The Serbs said 39 people had been killed, although foreign journalists counted 23 bodies.
What the picture leaves out is the extent of military casualties, on which Belgrade has been totally silent, and what is happening in Kosovo itself. Some Western journalists have been allowed in on orchestrated press trips, but none have been able to follow up consistent accounts of systematic murder of Kosovar Albanians. The numbers run into thousands, if not tens of thousands.
Some bombing incidents remain in dispute. Last week the Serbian authorities said 20 civilians died in a Nato strike on a bus near the Montenegro border. Nato denied responsibility, saying there was "no evidence" to support the claim. It suggested that the Kosovo Liberation Army might have ambushed the road on which the bus was travelling.
But although most reports of civilian deaths cannot be verified, defence experts concede that most Serb claims about Nato's "collateral damage" have proved accurate.
And it will happen again. The Serbs will gleefully drag Western journalists off to see the next civilian tragedy, while Nato will announce an investigation of the incident. When it comes to events such as the Chinese embassy bombing, there will be no reporting restrictions.
- 1 The difference between a migrant and refugee, in one sentence
- 2 Miley Cyrus calls out hypocrisy of women’s nipples being taboo
- 3 Celebrity Big Brother 2015: Tila Tequila kicked off show after 'describing Hitler as a good man'
- 4 Watch the Supermoon live: How to see the brightest Moon of the year tonight
- 5 iPhone 5c to be discontinued, no iPhone 6c to replace it
Spain accused of 'provocation' after letting Russian submarine refuel off Gibraltar
The difference between a migrant and refugee, in one sentence
Allonautilus scrobiculatus: World's 'rarest' creature spotted for only the third time ever
Miley Cyrus calls out hypocrisy of women’s nipples being taboo
Bangkok Bomb: Thai police name Adem Karadag as suspect arrested over blast that killed 20
Climate change: 2015 will be the hottest year on record 'by a mile', experts say
'Women only' train carriages: Jeremy Corbyn unveils radical move to tackle public harassment
Black holes are a passage to another universe, says Stephen Hawking
Iain Duncan Smith 'should resign over disability benefit death figures', says Jeremy Corbyn
Stock up on canned food for stock market crash, warns former Gordon Brown adviser
Labour leadership: Jeremy Corbyn voters most likely to believe 'world is controlled by a secretive elite'
£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive or Senior Sal...
£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...
£22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...
£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...