MON, 02 APR 2001 23:51:50 GMT
Mass Media in the District of Brcko
AIM Banja Luka, March 27, 2001
It took less than a year to representatives of the international
community in the District of Brcko in Bosnia and Herzegovina to put an
end to the work of the public media in the area of the pre-war
municipality of Brcko.
Until Brcko was proclaimed a district on March 8, 2000 the media
picture, at least as far as the public media were concerned, was rather
colourful. During the war and some time afterwards, three municipal or
national apparatuses had "their own media". Local politicians with some
knowledge of journalism knew full well that the fastest and most
complete information about their modest activities would reach the
voters in a quickest and cheapest way over the radio-waves.
Consequently, at the beginning of the war the Bosniacs in Maoca, seat of
the Bosniac municipality, and Croats in Seonjaci, seat of the Croat
municipality, established "their own" public media. On the other hand,
the Serbs already had a local radio station with 40 years long
During the war all three warring sides spread their ideas and
war-mongering propaganda over the waves of the mentioned radio stations.
With the arrival of peace to these parts new politicians came with new
demands, but also voters with their new needs. Some people realised that
they could profit from the public presentation of individuals and
parties over the media. Several private media sprung up overnight
equipped with expensive foreign donated technical devices.
Eight radio and three TV stations and two bi-weeklies were established
in the area of the pre-war municipality of Brcko with the money of
foreign tax payers. Only three radio and one TV station, as well as two
papers were financed from the municipal treasury. That was how the
situation looked liked until recently when, within the discussion on the
District's budget, a decision was reached on suspending the financing of
the mass media from the budget.
Things would not be so complicated if there were not some 60 people
employed in these media. The reporters were the ones to rock the boat
when they asked to be paid back for their services: "We have helped put
you on the map, now is your turn to help us survive and keep our jobs".
Representatives of the authorities explained that it was the OHR (Office
of the High Representative) which prohibited the financing of the media.
Finally, the misunderstanding was resolved when the local authorities
somehow managed to mollify the international community so as to allow
them to establish a multi-ethnic radio station with its financial
support. This news was also confirmed by the OHR. The ensuing selection
and appointment of the management and journalists was marked by foul
play. Both open and secret support campaigns were organised in favour of
several reporters. Everyone wanted to see his man at the most
responsible post. It seemed that most wanted were precisely those people
who figured prominently in the war-mongering rhetoric during the war.
As far as professional skills and qualifications were concerned, which
were basic preconditions at a competition for the employment of 20
reporters (which the Supervisor's Office decided was the number of
reporters to be employed in this radio) national affiliation and
political loyalty were most appreciated. Candidates who had been invited
to the employment interview said that employment commission which tested
their professional abilities was made up of people whose only connection
with information field was remote control of their TV sets.
In order to make the whole affair look serious, decisions on the
selection of reporters of multi-ethnic radio were brought at two levels.
The first level was the Application Commission which had the task of
establishing whether all applicants met basic competition requirements.
However, Commission members developed a liking for the entrusted
authority and assumed the competences of the Selection Committee too.
Consequently, they proposed Stevan Panic, professor of Serbian language
now working for the Radio Brcko, for Director. A non-commissioned
officer of the former YPA (Yugoslav People's Army) Tihomir Bijelic was
proposed for editor of the information desk and Admir Kadric, also
secondary-school graduate, for editor of culture and entertainment
programme. It was the Mayor, as one of the officials charged with the
appointment of the management of the new radio station, for which funds
(30 thousand KM each) have been secured from the District's budget for
the next two months, who proposed such personnel-national-half-literate
journalistic mix to the Supervisor's office. Deputy Supervisor rejected
the proposal. The officials knocked on all doors of the District
Government in order to reverse the decision, but in vain.
Deputy Supervisor Gerhard Zonthaim, appointed new personnel at his own
discretion. There are stories going around Brcko (among those better
versed in what is going on behind the Secondary School walls where the
OHR Office in Brcko is located), that the credit for the election of
Sead Buric, retired journalist of the former Sarajevo agricultural and
rural weekly "COOPERATIVE MEMBER" (Zadrugar) for a new Director, should
go to no one else but Bozidar Matic, President of the B&H Council of
Ministers (who is said to be Buric's great friend from school days).
Rumour also has it that Sophie Laguni, Political Advisor in the OHR
Office in Brcko (who is Buric's subtenant), had great influence on the
election of the pensioner Buric.
The dissatisfied workers of the Radio Brcko made a strong protest with
Zonthaim because "at the moment when the District Government is trying
to resolve the problem of 312 redundant administration workers by
allowing the purchase of the years of service, he has appointed a
retired journalist as the Director". They claim that at that moment
Brcko had at least some ten experienced and educated reporters qualified
for that position.