Friedensförderung durch Brücken der Verständigung
Peace Building through Bridges of Communication




MEDIA ONLINE, 03.02.2005

Monitoring of influential daily newspapers in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia & Montenegro and Croatia


03.02.2005: High College of Journalism Media plan,   Media Plan High College of Journalism

Media Plan Institute, in the framework of the High College of Journalism, carried out monitoring with the aim of establishing how daily newspapers report on what is happening in neighboring countries. The monitoring was done by former students of the High College of Journalism sixth generation (2003/2004) over a three-week period – from December 9 to December 30, 2004. The project mentors were News Agency Stina from Split, Croatia, and Media Plan Institute Research Center from Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina. Although this is a kind of educational performance of young journalists in analytical work, we claim with full responsibility that in the following report you will get relevant findings on the current media and political situation in these three South East European countries, whose relations, as a result of the recent bloody history of war, are still burdened by various frustrations.

The goal was to establish relevant characteristics of the dominant media image of the neighboring countries presented through the main print media – what contents dominate, how the contents offered are treated and developed, how they are intoned politically, is hate speech present, how professional standards are applied, whether selection of information is carried out and, if so, how, etc.

The monitor in Serbia followed the attitude that newspapers have towards Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, the monitor in Bosnia-Herzegovina the attitude towards Croatia and Serbia & Montenegro, and the monitor in Croatia towards Serbia & Montenegro and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Content analysis consisted of a quantitative and qualitative approach. The main unit of analysis is a media item/article. The following criterion variables were used:

- Country
- Subject/Issue
- Name of media outlet
- Date and place of publishing
- Journalistic form of item
- Author of item
- Orientation towards subject

In order to understand better the quantitative part, we must explain the variable of orientation towards subject. This is a value judgement on the stand of the media item in relation to the subject/topic that appears in it. It is necessary, first of all, to analyze the journalistic attitude – what attitude in the article did the author show toward the event that he or she writes about. It must be noted that in journalistic attitude, it is not the content of the article that is assessed, but purely the journalists’ stand/attitude. This enables us to make a complex qualification, according to which we are able to differentiate a negative/neutral/positive journalistic attitude, and also to qualify the content the same way. Thus, an article can have a negative content, but a neutral journalistic attitude (e.g. an item speaks about a rise in the crime rate in
Sarajevo, but this is presented neutrally and impartially by the journalist). Based on all this, we created a seven-degree scale:

1. Neutral attitude – positive content
2. Neutral attitude – negative content
3. Neutral attitude – neutral content
4. Negative attitude – negative content
5. Negative attitude – positive content
6. Positive attitude – negative content
7. Positive attitude – positive content

This variable, when talking about attitude, is based on the monitors’ free judgement on whether an item in the journalistic sense is presented with bias, repulsion or neutrally. The people working on the project are politically independent and ethnically unburdened journalists and we believe we can trust their judgement.

The main conclusion of this monitoring project might be that hate speech in the media, at least in treating this issue in the media, has disappeared, but there is still suspicion of neighbors, especially politically. For more information, please read the following reports.

Content analysis of the “Politika” and “Vecernje novosti” dailies

Davor Marko

“Politika” and “Vecernje Novosti” are dailies with a long tradition, large number of readers, significant influence on public opinion and notable circulations, due to which they are justifiably included among the daily press giants in

“Vecernje Novine” is the highest circulation daily in Serbia, with a circulation of close to 300,000 printed copies a day. Profiled in such a way that it is dominated by short journalistic forms, with large and pronounced headlines, numerous pictures and few commentaries, which makes it easy and quick to read, its target group is generally the middle class, workers, population from the provinces. It is the second most read newspaper in the Republika Srpska (38 percent), right after “Blic,” its biggest competitor.

“Politika” is the oldest Serbian daily, with a century-long tradition. Its target group is the more educated layer of people, residents of large urban centers, and in terms of content, it abounds in longer forms, reports, analyses and commentaries, with well-known names from the world of Serbian and international politics, culture, art and science expressing their views and personal opinions in this paper every day. The majority owner of “Politika” is the big news corporation “WAZ” and the influence and presence of the fundamental journalistic canons and ethical principles is felt in “Politika” more than in any other daily in Serbia.

What contents dominate

Although a negative or silent attitude of journalists towards developments in the neighborhood is still dominant, it would be ungratifying to generalize this. One may say that there is certain diversity in reporting, not just in choice of issues, but also in the attitude of those who write articles.

The most dominant contents carried in December by both “Politika” and “Vecernje Novosti” regard domestic politics, not just in
Serbia, but in another country as well – Bosnia-Herzegovina. Due to a political crisis in the Republika Srpska (RS), the High Representative Paddy Ashdown’s punitive measures, and the numerous reactions by political officials from the region, as well as the more important European institutions and embassies, both papers gave most attention to this issue. From news items, reports, statements, interviews, to commentaries, even insinuations – who is that man – insistence on shedding light on the background of Ashdown’s mission and arrival in Bosnia-Herzegovina to the post of High Representative. In the article “How Paddy Ashdown arrived in BiH: NAPKIN AT TOO HIGH A PRICE,” carried on page 2 of the December 9 issue of “Politika,” Miroslav Lazanski quotes “Politika’s very reliable source” and describes a 1994 meeting between Franjo Tudjman and the liberal English parliamentarian Paddy Ashdown in London. Lazanski concludes the article: “The content of the conversation during that dinner was soon known to the British secret services and the political leadership in London. This is when in Great Britain, in its media, he started being considered and emphasized as an expert on the Balkans and it was just a matter of time when he would arrive in BiH as High Representative of the International Community. It all started with a napkin. Which, evidently, is worth 25,000 euros.” (25,000 euros is supposedly the High Representative’s monthly salary.)

Reactions of political officials from Serbia & Montenegro are clear to some extent, since FR Yugoslavia is a signatory to the Dayton Peace Agreement. “The Dayton Agreement is a treaty ratified by Serbia & Montenegro and one-sided change of the agreement cannot have a good outcome,” carries “Vecernje Novine” the comment of Serbian Government Deputy Speaker Miroljub Labus (December 20, page 5), while in the “Politika” of December 25, in an authorial commentary entitled – TOGETHER WITH SRPSKA INTO EU” – he indicated that “with a reduction of independence of the Republika Srpska, the European future of the whole Serbian people would be jeopardized.” But something that does not deserve justification was also observed in these two papers. Journalists should not let themselves engage in open battle and fierce showdown “on account of defense of Serbianhood and the jeopardized Serbian people.” But this did happen in December, both in “Politika” and in “Vecernje Novosti.” “Vecernje Novine” covered this issue in more than half of the articles (of the total 105) dealing with developments in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The situation with “Politika” is similar. Of 92 articles writing about Bosnia-Herzegovina, the contents of 57 deal with the Republika Srpska government crisis and possible abolishment of this entity. “To consider the media in Serbia harnessed into some sort of a political project of united Serbian lands, headed by ‘Vecernje Novosti,’ is either wrong or frivolous in my opinion,” said Nino Brajovic, President of the Association of Journalists of Serbia, in response to a December allegation of the Helsinki Committee of Serbia that “Vecernje Novosti is the spearhead of nationalistic and conservative orientation.”

Be it as it may, not a single day passed that “Vecernje” or “Politika” did not deal with the problem in the RS; the culmination came on December 19 when “Vecernje Novine” concluded on its front page, in large font: “WITHOUT SRPSKA THERE IS NO BIH.” Page 5 of this issue of “Vecernje” is entirely dedicated to the political crisis in the RS and reactions to the High Representative’s sanctions. “Politika,” two days later (December 21), dedicated the whole second page to reactions to developments in the RS. In the article “Reactions from Serbia,” what draws attention is the final comment of the political analyst Djordje Vukadinovic, who compared the status of the RS with that of Kosovo. “This would mean that everything that is allowed to Albanians in Kosmet should be allowed to Serbs in BiH, and this symmetry is necessary and required. Our politicians seem to be afraid to say that RS status is a vital national interest.” On the same page, “Politika” for the first time encompasses both neighbors in one article – “Croatian echoes of developments in BiH: RS BOTHERS THEM.” On December 26, “Vecernje Novine” on the front page featured a caricature of Paddy Ashdown who is aiming a cannon at a house with a Republika Srpska flag.”

On page 2 of “Politika” on December 11, the journalist Dusan Kecman, in an analytical article, deals with internal reform and (de)centralization of BiH, comments on the High Representative’s decisions, and concludes: “with a division of BiH into regions, Banja Luka (financial center of the country and roads), Tuzla (healthcare and mining), Mostar (electricity management and agriculture), Zenica (metallurgy and heavy industry), and Sarajevo (administrative, legislative and trading center), with all these practical changes in the Constitution, but without changing the letter on paper, Bosnia-Herzegovina becomes a more centralized and stronger state, according to many assessments in Banja Luka, than the BiH from the time of CK SK BiH (during the pre-war communist authorities).

How the contents offered are treated and presented

In a table of journalistic forms, there is a considerable number of “non-aligned” articles included in the section – Other. These are, usually, newly-created journalistic forms, so-called hybrids, increasingly common on the pages of daily press. These forms are longer than reports, they often have sub-headlines, they remind of articles, but they are shorter and practically do not contain any analytical elements. Authenticity of items, in the majority of these articles, is very doubtful. Articles that try to be even the least bit analytical only touch upon the essence of an issue, dealing with some superficial matters, and this mostly happens as a result of mechanical carrying of contents from other papers. For instance, “Politika” on December 14 writes about the release of a Croatian driver who was taken out of
Iraq by four Serbs, but the headline concludes: “ASSISTANCE FROM FOUR SERBS SUPPRESSED.” The journalist writes that most media in Croatia failed to emphasize whom the driver Damir Mikulic should be grateful to for his release, with the exception of the Rijeka-based “Novi List,” which published an interview with one of the Serbs, Dejan Gvozdenovic from Odzak. Five days later, in a commentary published on December 19 on page 2 of “Vecernje Novosti,” the journalist Zeljko Vukovic returns to the issue of “non-recognition of Serb assistance to the Croatian driver,” with a concluding comment: “And that’s where the story ended. As all other stories about Serbs end – good are only those Serbs who are ashamed of being Serb, who slander their people, who are humble and inferior before everything and everyone…” In both cases, the authors of the articles either carry items from Croatian press or comment on what Croatian press did not write about, without authentic statements, facts or any kind of contact with what happened.

On December 13, on the front page, “Politika” brings news of “Croatia’s latest decision – WITHOUT VISAS FOR ANOTHER YEAR,” with the journalist’s comment (although this is a news item!!!). “It is interesting that this important decision on free movement of people across the Serbia & Montenegro border has not found a conspicuous place in the Croatian news media, as had happened earlier with similar decisions, but was mostly passed over in silence,” writes the journalist R.A.

The front page of “Vecernje Novosti” on December 9 is dominated by a photograph of a diver who dived off the Old Bridge in Mostar in honor of Serbian President Boris Tadic.

Is hate speech present

“Standards of political conduct have still not been raised in Serbia as in the Republika Srpska and Bosnia-Herzegovina itself. There is no hate speech there, no attacks without arguments, no condemnation, no possibility of saying lies about political rivals,” stated Serbian President Boris Tadic, after visiting Sarajevo, Banja Luka and Mostar (front page of “Politika” on December 9). This is basically a big compliment to the media and political sphere in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and it is up to its citizens to assess if this is really so.

Although the picture of reporting from the neighborhood in the two monitored dailies is mostly pale, one cannot say that any classical forms of spreading hate speech through the media were observed in the past month. At least not the kind that the media made us accustomed to during the war and post-war consolidation. But, there are articles in which elements that are certainly not naive can be recognized.

“Vecernje Novine” writes on December 14 about how the Croatian authorities plan to change names of towns, bringing an article on page 8 entitled: “FROM KORENICA TO KORJENICA.” The publishing of this article would not bother as much if a campaign for republic president was not going on at the time in
Croatia and there was not a single article published about that in this issue.

The most evident examples of how these two papers, “Politika” and “Vecernje Novine,” are profiled can be seen from the headlines of articles printed on December 14 on the issue of a regional football competition in which teams from former Yugoslav countries are supposed to participate. While, according to “Politika,” Vlatko Markovic, President of the Croatian Football Federation, claims that: “HNS (Croatian Football Federation) IS AGAINST THE PARTICIPATION OF TEAMS FROM SCG (Serbia & Montenegro),” “Vecernje Novine,” in its sports section, reports: “HNS WILL NOT BE WITH SERBS.”

SARAJEVO – SERB SREBRENICA” is the headline of an interview with Darko Matijasevic, Republika Srpska Minister of Interior, on December 12 in “Vecernje Novine.” The headline is too strong, it stirs emotions and it is sensationalist, because in most of the interview Matijasevic speaks about cooperation of the RS Ministry of Interior with The Hague and re-examination of crimes against the Serb population, but also reminds that every Hague indictee of Serb ethnicity should surrender voluntarily.

On the other hand, “Politika” on December 15 on page 4 carries a reportage about Sarajevo, entitled “IN A TAXI INTO EUROPE,” where the journalist comments in a disarming way on an environment that is new to her.

On December 18, an article appeared in “Vecernje” about a lawsuit against Croatia for racial discrimination, with the headline: “GHETTO FOR ROMANY CHILDREN.” “Vecernje Novosti” (December 30) entitled an article on the release of French journalists in Iraq: “JOURNALISTS’ KIDNAPPERS LEARNED THEIR TRADE IN BOSNIA.”

Thus, it is clear that these two papers suffer from the old journalistic ailment of using headlines to underline, exaggerate or smear, although the articles themselves often do not have such negative connotations, or even more clearly – the headline does not reflect the very content of the article.

Negligible coverage of presidential election campaign in Croatia

Although the Croatian presidential campaign with as many as 13 candidates was in full swing in December, news articles on this issue can be counted on one’s fingers. Although the election results and constitution of the institution of president in the neighboring country is a matter of great importance to Serbia (for the sake of further mutual cooperation, as well as resolving current issues, common European orientation, unresolved property situation of refugees and displaced persons, certain scandals…), not a single article focused on this seriously. “Politika” only published an interview with Stjepan Mesic (December 16, page 2), but this does not justify the discrimination of the other candidates. This is the only major violation of journalistic standards because, although Mesic was the absolute favorite in all surveys, it is not professional to declare the winner before the battle and to neglect all other candidates. In the mentioned interview, only the last question was related to the then current presidential campaign and upcoming elections. The question is: “Presidential elections are soon taking place in Croatia. DO YOU THINK YOU WILL WIN?” Mesic answers: “Yes, in the first round.” And this is all about the elections. The other candidates were either not written about or were given very little space and these articles mostly have negative contents (carrying a statement made by Jadranka Kosor that she will not forgive Serbia & Montenegro for the inflicted wartime damage, or stories about the dark past and the crimes of the independent candidate Ljubo Cesic Rojs), or they deal with entirely pathetic matters (“independent candidate Miroslav Ciro Blazevic thanks Hajduk on cooperation”). And one more example. The third-ranked in the Croatian presidential elections, American businessman Boris Miksic (almost 18 percent of all votes), remained unknown to the readers of these two papers because they did not a write single word about this candidate during the one-month-long presidential campaign. On December 25, on page 2, “Politika” offers a prediction for the Croatian presidential elections, while on December 30 it symbolically announces the elections, with the following comment in the headline: “THE FINALS WITH A FEW INSULTS.”

One of the current problems between Serbia and Croatia is territorial demarcation, to which an article is dedicated in “Vecernje Novosti” on December 13, on page 4, under the headline: “Border line between Serbia and Croatia, it seems, will be disputed for a long time to come: WHO IS MAKING THE DANUBE MUDDY.”

Examples of looking into the private lives of well-known figures, athletes this time, were present in both newspapers. And in both cases they regarded a young tennis player from Serbia & Montenegro, Jelena Dokic. On December 27, “Vecernje Novosti,” on pages 24 and 25, carried a report from the Zagreb “Jutarnji List” about her stay in Zagreb and love affair with her coach. “Politika” published an article with a similar content on December 23, under the headline: “DOKIC IN ZAGREB.” And for those who really like to “peek” into the intimate lives of celebrities, on December 29 they got the information that after a long relationship, the actress Mia Begovic and Zeljko Znidaric were married in Zagreb, all on page 36 of “Vecernje Novosti.”

On page 15 of “Vecernje Novosti” on December 13, Momcilo Mandic, former Justice Minister of the Republika Srpska, says: I WILL REVEAL WHO ARE RADOVAN’S HELPERS, presenting himself as the good guy. The headline ‘SERBS ARE TO BLAME FOR EVERYTHING” in an article published in “Politika” on December 24 on page 2 is completely taken out of context. In the article, the journalist carries parts of a press release issued by the High Representative, in which Ashdown asserts that the “cause of the present situation in BiH is not the recently passed package of measures, but the Republika Srpska’s failure over the past nine years to obey the Dayton Agreement and its international commitments.” The journalist also writes that the “US Embassy in BiH supported the statement of the international representative in BiH,” and also that the “Serb Democratic Party, in a press release, dissociated itself from the operation and work of Justice Minister in the BiH Council of Ministers Slobodan Kovac.” Not a single sentence in the article indicates that Serbs are to blame for everything, but perhaps only officials and politicians from the RS, which is not the same.

Although it carries a press release issued by the Social-Democratic Party of Bosnia-Herzegovina, as well as its President Zlatko Lagumdzija, on the political crisis in BiH and the RS (December 20, page 5), “Vecernje Novosti” journalists add, as the last paragraph, their own comment – “The Social-Democratic Party of Bosnia-Herzegovina is the only party in the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina that condemned Ashdown’s measures toward the Republika Srpska.”

Is there selection of information and if so, how is it done

That deviant and sensational phenomena in society are attractive, without caring whether they can produce negative feedback and stir passions, is shown by the example of “Vecernje Novosti” on December 16, when it published an article on page 2 entitled: “USTASHA OCCUPATION OF ZADAR.” “Politika” informs its readers about the same incident in its own, fairer way on December 17, in an article entitled: “NEW USTASHA GRAFFITI.” This concerns a parade of ultranationalists dressed in Ustasha outfits (Ustasha – Croatian fascists during World War II). In the World section in “Vecernje Novosti,” entitled “This also happens” – the journalist writes about a “new scandal involving the controversial Andrija Hebrang which is shaking the Croatian public.” “How much Andrija Hebrang, Croatia’s Health Minister, trusts the sector under his management is best shown by the example that he recently went for a prostate operation to – Innsbruck in Austria” (December 17, page 12), writes the article.

On December 17, “Politika” writes about the war between Serbian and Croatian hackers. “PINK, CHECKERBOARD, GENERAL AND DZENI” is the headline of an article printed on page 10, which says that Croatian hackers first posted a picture of the popular skier Janica Kostelic on the Sports Association Partizan website, accompanied by the message – “Janica, Croatian hackers are with you.” Serbian “colleagues” responded and a picture of Milan Gurovic with a Draza Mihailovic tattoo appeared on Kostelic’s site, with the accompanying text – “If it can’t be done on parquet, it can on the internet,” alluding to a recent ban for this basketball player to enter Croatia. “Vecernje Novosti” adds to this on the front page of December 19, claiming that “Albanians also got involved yesterday in the Serbian-Croatian clash on the world web,” by attacking the Serbian Unification Congress site, where a presentation of Rasko-Prizrenska Eparchy was first crashed and the following poster posted there: “Kosovo will be independent of Serbs.”

On page 17 of “Vecernje Novine” on December 9, we have an interview with Zejnil Delalic from Konjic. My first impression was of a positive example and non-selection of information or interviewees. It is positive on the part of the journalist that a chance to speak was given to someone who participated in the war “on the other side,” as commander of the First Tactical Group of the Army of Bosnia-Herzegovina. As the journalist writes, he is the “only Hague indictee acquitted by the court so far who sued BiH.” The initial impression is spoiled by the last paragraph where Delalic calls on his “wartime enemies,” Karadzic and Mladic, not to surrender; this resembles some kind of solidarity and association against the common enemy – The Hague Tribunal. Was this the aim of the interview?

“Vecernje Novosti,” although not that often, does not miss the opportunity to write about an event in the crime section. In the issue of December 22, on page 15, it reports about a “bloody celebration of St. Nicholas in the Mitrovic family in Jabucic Polje near Doboj: HE KILLED A GUEST AT THE FESTIVITY FROM A PISTOL.”

One of the rare bright examples of impartially selected information is an article published in “Politika” on December 19 on the issue of
Croatia starting accession negotiations with the EU (page 3). Very informative and affirmative for Croatia.

It is positive that a considerable number of news articles are dedicated to culture. “Vecernje Novosti” writes about issues from the world of culture as many as 49 times. “Politika” 15. The reason why “Vecernje Novosti” wrote considerably about cultural issues is the existence of a page – Celebrity Club – which is a part of the culture section, with at least two show business celebrities, or someone from the world of art or culture, presented on this page practically every day. Thus, “Vecernje Novosti” journalists, on pages dedicated to culture on December 19, write: “An 11-minute film that shows Croatian singer Severina Vuckovic having intercourse with one of her lovers is not an author’s work, judged a Zagreb Commercial Court judge.” An exhibit on the 50th anniversary of the Modern Art Museum in Zagreb was announced in “Vecernje Novosti” on December 17, on page 26. A commentary about the Croatian publishing business and how books are expensive in Croatia can be found on page 27 of “Vecernje Novosti” on December 23. “Vecernje” on December 28, on page 36, writes about Rambo Amadeus’s visit to Zagreb. “Departure of the great Croatian painter: KNIFER DIES” – this is the title of a bloc of news published in the culture section of “Vecernje Novosti” on December 10, which proves once again that culture does not recognize borders.

“Politika” carefully follows developments related to the Sarajevo kidnapping of seven-year-old Mak, son of Mirza Varesanovic, director of Football Team Sarajevo. First, on December 11, in the Sport section, on page 23, it reports that the kidnapping happened, and a day later, on page 2, it published an article entitled: “Kidnapping drama ends: YOUNGSTER FREED.”

That criminal activities are an inexhaustible source for writing articles is shown by a number of items on fraud related to usurpation of Serb properties in Croatia. “Through false documents, to Serb properties in Croatia: THEY FALSIFIED SIGNATURES OF THE DEAD,” “Politika,” December 18, page 11. On December 20, this paper published an interview with Milorad Pupovac, legitimate representative of Croatia’s Serb minority, on this issue. “Vecernje Novosti” also writes about “deceit of Serbs from Croatia” and illegal acquisition of their properties (December 28, page 8).

Because of the “Adriatic League,” a regional basketball competition, in which teams from Serbia & Montenegro, Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina also participate, sports sections are usually “richer” by several reports more from the former Yugoslav republics. And that’s mostly it. At the time of the monitoring, there was a break in the Adriatic League and this meager result was even lower. In the sport section of “Politika” on December 9, on page 22, a journalist professionally announced an Adriatic League basketball game between Belgrade’s Partizan and Zagreb’s Cibona, accompanied by a press release issued by KK Partizan’s management calling on rooters to reduce tension and be fair on people from Zagreb. Namely, tension ran high following the “Gurovic case” (a ban issued for this basketball player, not allowing him to go to Zagreb because he has a tattoo of Draza Mihailovic on his arm) and the arrest of three Belgrade students for showing fascist symbols on Bana Jelacica Square in Zagreb.

Content analysis of the “Večernji list” and “Novi list” dailies

Stojan Obradović and Sanja Vukčević

In the framework of implementation of the monitoring project “Neighbors on Neighbors,” in the December 9-30, 2004 period, two dailies were monitored – Croatia’s highest circulation daily “Vecernji List” and the Rijeka-based “Novi List,” which is also a national daily, but with regional characteristics.

The initial concept to monitor the two highest circulation daily newspapers in
Croatia (which, in that case, would be “Vecernji List” and “Jutarnji List”) was changed precisely with the aim of gaining an insight into a potential “regional stand” with regard to media treatment of the neighboring countries.

This is the first monitoring of its kind (extensive by content because it encompasses all issues on the neighboring countries, from political, through economic, to cultural and sport). Thus, unfortunately, we have no basis for comparison, not even the basic kind – to see if the number of items about the neighboring countries has increased and in what direction these items are going (topics, orientation, quality, etc.)

It is necessary to say that the monitored period in Croatia was a time of a presidential election campaign, but this period was not characterized by any particular developments between Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina or between Croatia and Serbia & Montenegro, which would have inspired more frequent coverage of relations between these countries or of certain issues. True, right before the monitoring, the “Milan Gurovic case” happened (a “Partizan” basketball player who was not allowed to enter Croatia, where his team was playing Zagreb’s “Cibona” in the Good Year League, because he has a tattoo of Draza Mihajlovic, war criminal and leader of the Chetnik movement in World War II) and this “case” could be felt in some sport reports.

It may be assessed that the monitoring period passed without any particular developments affecting the type and frequency of items; therefore, we can view it as being representative. It is a different question if the monitoring period is sufficient to reach founded conclusions, but this is a matter of the general methodological approach and, of course, the very limited resources available for the project.

Somewhat more attention to Serbia & Montenegro

In the monitored period, both papers published a total of 127 different articles on developments in Bosnia-Herzegovina and
Serbia & Montenegro. Some more articles on these neighbors were featured by “Novi List” – 70 articles, or 55% of the total number of published articles, while “Vecernji List” published 57 articles, or 45% (Table and Chart 2). Bigger attention in both media outlets is direct toward Serbia & Montenegro and the two papers published 80 articles about it (63%), while 47 articles (37%) were published about Bosnia-Herzegovina (Table and Chart 1). Looking by paper, “Vecernji List, relatively speaking, gives somewhat more attention to Bosnia-Herzegovina than “Novi List” (Tables and Charts 3 and 4), but this can be related to the fact that the highest circulation daily in Croatia has a special edition for Bosnia-Herzegovina, which means that it has an incomparably stronger correspondence network and thus bigger potential in selecting items and issues.

The dominant issue when it comes to coverage of the two neighboring countries is “human rights, inter-ethnic relations, ethnic minority rights.” This is the topic of 25% of all items brought in these two papers, or the topic of every fourth item. In second place is “crime and other deviant phenomena” (17.3%), and in third, with an insignificant difference, “war crimes and The Hague Court” (16.5%) (Table 5a). Only after that comes economy, sport, culture. But this general picture noticeably changes if we analyze the coverage of the two monitored papers separately.

The most frequent issue in “Novi List,” when it writes about Serbia & Montenegro, is “crime and other deviant phenomena” (30%), and then “human rights, inter-ethnic relations, ethnic minorities” (21%), immediately followed by “war crimes/The Hague Court” (17%). These three issues are dominant when it writes about Bosnia-Herzegovina as well, but in first place is the pronouncedly dominant issue of “human rights, inter-ethnic relations and ethnic minorities” (48%), followed by war crimes and The Hague (17%), and then criminal and other issues (13%). The issues of economy, culture and sport are considerably less present (Table 5).

In the case of “Vecernji List,” the situation is significantly different. Economic issues are in first place when it writes about BiH (25%), and sport is first when it writes about Serbia & Montenegro (24%). When it covers Serbia & Montenegro, cultural and economic issues (15% each) are also highly placed, in third and fourth place (right after sport and “human rights…” (21%), but before “war crimes…” (12%) and “crime…” (6%). See also Table 5.

Generally speaking, considering the quantity of the articles published, it seems justified to assert that coverage of the neighboring countries is still dominantly characterized by a so-called “field of conflict,” i.e. the conflicts that these countries experienced and their consequences (areas of human rights, minority rights, inter-ethnic relations, war crimes, etc.), while issues indicating mutual interest, respect and cooperation (economy, culture, sport) are in the background.

However, one could say that there is at least indication that media interest is slowly being directed towards a post-conflict area of cooperation (economy, culture, sport). Of course, in specific circumstances, these areas may also be areas of symbolic conflict, such as in the case of some sport items which are used to express political stands.

As for journalistic form in which these items are presented, the most dominant forms are “report” and “news item.” More complex journalistic forms such as commentaries, interviews and reportages are very rare and actually more of an exception than a rule.

“Novi List” usually brings items on the neighboring countries in the form of reports. They make up 62% of all items on
Serbia & Montenegro and 52% of items on Bosnia-Herzegovina. They are followed in frequency by news items (26% each). “Vecernji List,” on the other hand, usually writes about Serbia & Montenegro through the form of news items (58%) and then reports (30%), while in writing about BiH it is the other way around (33% and 63% respectively). Of the other forms that are present more noticeably are commentaries about BiH in “Novi List”, and interviews about Serbia & Montenegro in “Vecernji List” (Table 6).

Dominance of the negative in content of items, but with neutral journalistic attitude

With regard to the contents of the issues covered, one may conclude that negative contents clearly dominate. Around 70 percent of articles brought by “Novi List” about Serbia & Montenegro (71%) or BiH (70%) have negative contents. The same characteristic is present in the writing of “Vecernji List.” Negative contents dominate in this paper, although to a somewhat lesser extent – there are 67% items dealing with BiH that have negative contents, and 39% about Serbia & Montenegro. “Vecernji List,” on the other hand, has a somewhat bigger number of items with neutral contents (36% about Serbia & Montenegro and 17% about BiH), while in “Novi List” there are only 15% neutral contents about Serbia & Montenegro and 13% about BiH. Positive contents are least present in both papers. The situation at “Vecernji List” is a little bit more favorable, with positive contents making up 24% of articles about Serbia & Montenegro and 17% about BiH, while in “Novi List” only 17% of the items have positive contents about Bosnia-Herzegovina and even less, 15%, about Serbia & Montenegro. (Table 7).

This structure of item content draws its logic from issues that dominate in the writing of the monitored papers about the neighboring countries, which are dominantly directed towards fields that determined their relations of conflict or that are a consequence of these relations.

A more favorable structure of items in “Vecernji List” is most probably related to differences in the issues focused on and their frequency in the two papers. Namely, as we have already stated, in “Vecernji List” there are more issues that we might include in fields of post-conflict cooperation (economy, culture).

As far as journalists’ stand, or attitude, towards the issues presented is concerned, it is encouraging that a neutral stand prevails. In “Novi List,” a neutral stand on the part of journalists, i.e. authors of articles, is present in as many as 85% of the items about Serbia & Montenegro and 70% about BiH. In “Vecernji List,” this ratio is similar – 85% about
Serbia & Montenegro and 75% about BiH. See also Table 7.

Although a neutral approach prevails, as far as the rest of the items are concerned, it is encouraging that among the items of journalists who have a certain stand on the issues they write about, a positive orientation is generally present, namely a positive value judgement when writing about negative issues, which means that journalists have a critical approach to certain deviant phenomena.

With regard to coverage of BiH in “Novi List,” there are 22% such items with positive orientation, compared to 9% about Serbia & Montenegro, while the situation at “Vecernji List” is similar – 17% and 9% respectively. There are basically no negative value judgements, namely no uncritical writing about negative phenomena.

Finally, as far as formal criteria are concerned, the majority of articles in both newspapers are published in the “World” section. This is the case with 61% of all items published by “Novi List” about BiH and 38% of items about Serbia & Montenegro. In “Vecernji List,” 42% of all items about BiH are featured on “World” pages, and so are 36% about BiH. (Table 8)

The second most common place where items are featured in “Novi List” is “Internal Politics/News,” while in “Vecernji List” this happens in specialized sections (sport, culture, economy) with regard to items from Serbia & Montenegro, and in the sections “Other” and “Economy” with regard to BiH (Table 9).

As far as authors of items are concerned, journalists are usually signed by their full name, followed by agencies, then journalists signed by initials, while unsigned items are very rare, and there are no items carried from other media.

Although the “conflict field” dominates, issues of cooperation and interest are pushing their way through

To conclude this monitoring, it seems possible to establish several main characteristics that still dominantly determine the media approach when writing about the two neighboring countries, Bosnia-Herzegovina and
Serbia & Montenegro.

The main conclusions can be divided into two groups: those regarding what is written about, and those regarding how it is written. As for the first group of conclusions, we may single out three main observations, or indicators.

In the first place is the fact that the items that still prevail are those related to the so-called conflict field, namely issues that this or that way, directly or indirectly, causally or consequentially, are related to the conflicts that all three countries were involved in, more or less mutually, in the previous decade. This is undoubtedly proven by the fact that issues such as human rights, interethnic relations, ethnic minority rights, war crimes and The Hague court make up more than 40 percent of the total published articles.

Another possible conclusion that imposes itself in this monitoring is that, despite the dominance of the “conflict field,” more and more room is being given to issues of potential cooperation, interest and respect, such as economy, culture, even sport (although sport may also be a field of expressing symbolic conflict). For instance, in “Vecernje Novine,” the issues of economy in BiH or sport in Serbia & Montenegro are in the foreground.

Unfortunately, the fact remains that the prevalent characteristic, i.e. the content of the items covered, is a negative one. Negative contents make up from 40 to more than 70 percent of the items published, which points to the conclusion that even issues outside the “conflict field” are presented in a negative light, i.e. that negative aspects of certain fields are selected.

As for conclusions on how these papers write, it seems significant to point out two things.

As the first important conclusion, we might point out the fact that in terms of the form that items are published in, the more simple journalistic forms (news items and reports) dominate, which indicates that developments in neighboring countries are covered rather superficially and that not much effort is made to present certain issues and topics analytically and in-depth. Commentaries, interviews and reportages appear extremely rarely and are more of an exception than a rule.

Another equally important conclusion is that journalistic approach in most of the items published is neutral (neutral approach characterizes 70 to 85 percent of the items published). Of course, this is conditioned by the prevalent forms of journalistic items (news items, reports); however, article analysis and especially presentation (headlines) shows that negative passions are very sporadic and actually negligent and it indicates that neutrality is a professional choice.

It is questionable if the prevalent negative contents are also a professional choice or if the events simply impose them, but this would require more complex and longer research.

The general conclusion of this short monitoring – reminding once again of the pronounced methodological limitations due to which we can primarily speak of indications, rather than research findings – might be reduced to the assessment that items on neighbors are still determined by a “field of conflict.” At the same time, breakthroughs from this field are also evident, as well as turning to issues that in the foreseeable future might have more positive effect on relations among these countries. What can contribute to this is adherence to professional standards, which is evidently present when it comes to formal criteria, but which certainly needs stronger impetus when it comes to the need for a more complex approach to media coverage of neighbors.

Content analysis of the “Dnevni avaz” and “Nezavisne novine” dailies

Namir Ibrahimovic

Monitoring of articles in influential Bosnian-Herzegovinian media on the topic of “Neighbors on Neighbors” was done on the examples of the newspapers Dnevni Avaz and Nezavisne Novine. These two papers presently have the highest circulations and greatest influence among the daily press readers. Due to the specific social and political organization of Bosnia-Herzegovina, it is important to point out that Dnevni Avaz is mostly read in the Bosniak-majority parts of the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina (FBiH). Nezavisne Novine has a higher circulation in the Republika Srpska (RS), although it is distributed across BiH and its content partly matches its intention to be a true BiH-wide paper.

Nezavisne more extensive; Avaz more diverse

Nezavisne Novine, in the above period, published almost three times as many articles about Serbia & Montenegro and Croatia than Dnevni Avaz did: 293 (Serbia & Montenegro 209, Croatia 84), compared to 110 (Serbia & Montenegro 62, Croatia 48). This is understandable considering that the
Banja Luka paper has a section called Region, which usually takes up three pages in each issue. It is rare that it has two pages. The majority of articles about Bosnia-Herzegovina’s neighbors were published in this section – 179 about Serbia & Montenegro and 63 about Croatia, which, in terms of percentages, is more than 75% of all sections published.

The articles in Dnevni Avaz are distributed across different sections; articles on the two neighboring countries appeared in as many as 16 sections. This is a lot more compared to Nezavisne Novine, where articles appeared only in eight sections.

It is of note that 85 percent of articles in Dnevni Avaz are unsigned (which is 77.2% of the total number); of this, it says 18 times somewhere in the article from what outlet the news item was carried. For example, an article entitled “Protected witness dispensing threats” (Dec. 25, page 26) has the following lead: The lawyer Biljana Kajganic, former attorney of Dejan Milenkovic Bagzi, charged with the murder of Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic, told “Blic” that she had notified the state authorities that she had been threatened by the protected witness Ljubisa Buha Cume. (underlined by N.I.). It is not a rule to mention the media outlet at the very beginning of an article.

Agency sources of information

Nezavisne Novine mostly carried articles dealing with the neighbors from agencies (219 articles have an agency in the signature among the total number of given articles). The agencies that the paper’s editors most often carry articles from are: Beta, Srna and Hina. In several items, the signature said “agencies” (19 times), without specifying their name; these articles were also included among the agency articles, rather than among the unsigned ones. Dnevni Avaz has a different term – “as agencies report” – and these articles are included in the section of unsigned articles.

Only 10 articles are signed with a first and last name (cases when the first name is only given as an initial and the last name is full, e.g. F. Vele, are included here). These are usually articles positioned on the first several pages, commentaries and interviews with a person from the culture or entertainment business.

The situation with Nezavisne Novine is no better – only 14 articles are signed with a first and last name. The categories in which this happened fully match the ones mentioned in the case of the
Sarajevo paper.

Dominance of a neutral stand of the journalist

The fact that most articles have a neutral stand is pleasing. In Dnevni Avaz they make up 90.9%, and in Nezavisne Novine as much as 98.9% of the total number of articles. Three articles in the Banja Luka paper have a positive stand in Gordana Susa’s commentaries. As for Avaz, seven articles do not have a neutral stand – six articles display a positive stand, and one a negative stand. The negative stand is related to the article “Bosniaks on trial for jeopardizing the integrity of FRY: Protest against rigged trial.” In the headline, the editors and the journalist declare the trial rigged although they do not provide a single solid piece of evidence of this in the article. Considering that Bosniaks are the damaged party in the trial, this partly explains the stand in the headline because Avaz sometimes strongly articulates the interests and quasi interests of Bosniaks.

The positive stands in the Sarajevo-based paper regard interviews with people from show business and cultural life, in which journalists during interviews display their positive stand on the work of these people, their biographies, etc.

With regard to the contents of newspaper articles, they are equally distributed and one cannot speak about tendentious selection of contents. Both newspapers regularly covered problems in relations between The Hague War Crimes Tribunal and the Belgrade authorities, but no tendency on the part of journalists or editors was observed. The biggest number of articles published in Dnevni Avaz have neutral content (47). Thirty-three articles have a positive stand and 30 articles have a negative stand. In Nezavisne Novine, the biggest number of articles also take a neutral stand (126), followed by those with a negative stand (89) and a positive stand (78).

(It is important to explain how I assessed the content of articles. All articles containing a statement made by a person, regardless of what that person talks about, are included among neutral contents. This was done because assessing content by the stand of just one person means identifying with that stand.)

News items – the most common form of articles about neighbors

When we look in the statistics under “type of news article,” we will see that news items are published most often (Dnevni Avaz has 67; Nezavisne Novine has 231), followed by articles carried from other media (49 to 34 in favor of the Banja Luka paper). Only in Nezavisne Novine was a reportage published about police women in
Serbia and there were no feuilletons at all regarding the neighboring countries. Also, in these BiH papers, not a single press release was published. A total of eight reports were published – six in Nezavisne and two in Avaz.

Very few news items about the neighboring countries were done by newsroom journalists. These papers’ editors usually decided for agency news items, which were rarely corrected. The only more extensive reporting done by local journalists happened during Serbian President Boris Tadic’s visit to Mostar at the beginning of this monitoring, on December 9-10.

Shorter interviews were mostly done with people from show business – Nina Badric, singer from Croatia; Zeljko Joksimovic, singer from Serbia & Montenegro (both in Nezavisne Novine) and people from culture, such as Croatian actor Dejan Acimovic, for instance (Dnevni Avaz). In the field of politics, Nezavisne Novine made a long interview with President of the Republic of Croatia Stjepan Mesic. The dominant issue was the first election round at that time, setting the date for the start of talks with the EU and relations with neighboring countries.

The Hague Tribunal and crime in the neighborhood

Looking at the issues, the Sarajevo daily mostly writes about Serbia & Montenegro in the context of war crimes / The Hague Tribunal (a total of 16 articles), while in Nezavisne Novine 49 articles regard crime and other deviant phenomena (most of these articles were about the mysterious murder of an Army of Serbia & Montenegro guard at Topcider and regular coverage of a trial for the murder of Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic), and very close in number are articles about war crimes / The Hague Tribunal (47 in total).

As for
Croatia, Nezavisne gave most space to articles from the newly-created section on “Internal Politics” – a total of 25 articles, while 20 were about crime and other deviant phenomena. In Avaz as well, most articles are from internal politics – 11, followed by sport – 9.

In preparation of the methodology and instructions for this monitoring, in the article topics there was no section envisioned for articles dealing, for instance, with presidential elections in Croatia, Croatia meeting requirements for a date to be set for the beginning of negotiations to join the European Union, political turmoil in Serbia, etc. Since the number of these articles was not insignificant, I included another section: internal politics. In the statistics, this section is a sub-section of “other.” In Nezavisne, a total of 67 such articles were published (42 referring to Serbia & Montenegro, 25 to Croatia), and in Dnevni Avaz 16 (5 about the eastern neighbors and 11 about the western neighbors).

Nezavisne Novine wrote 20 times about the economy in Serbia & Montenegro, much more than the other newspaper, which published only two articles on this issue. An insignificant number of articles on the economy of the other neighboring country was published.

Another interesting fact is that very few articles on sport were published. In Nezavisne, there are a total of eight such articles (which is 2.7% of all articles published), and in Avaz a little more – 18 (16.4%). The majority of these articles, in both newspapers, regarded a basketball player from Belgrade’s “Partizan,” Gurovic, and a scandal involving a Draza Mihajlovic tattoo on his arm. These articles could have been included in the section on “treatment of human rights, inter-ethnic relations and ethnic minority rights,” but there were included under “sport.”

Note: The results of basketball matches in the “GoodYear Adriatic League,” “Euroleague” and Women’s Handball Championship were not encompassed in the framework of this monitoring although local teams or national teams from the neighboring countries participated in these competitions. An exception was made if there was a separate article on a match between Croatia’s athletes and athletes from Serbia & Montenegro in these competitions (e.g. a news item on a basketball match between “Partizan” and “Cibona” in Belgrade).

The problem of articles that were not included

In addition to articles from the area of internal politics, another number of articles could not be included in any of the offered sections. Both newspapers brought news on reactions by political parties from Serbia to Ashdown’s latest measures related to removal of certain municipal officials in the RS from their positions. These items were included in the section “other.” Beside this issue, there were also the issues of census, RTS journalists’ salaries, human interest pieces (e.g. about the number of visitors to the Josip Broz Tito Mausoleum at Dedinje), and others.

The section “jet set” is separate, consisting of articles on people from show business. I think these articles cannot be included in the section “culture.”


Judging by the articles published in this monitoring period, one may say that BiH newspapers have a neutral stand on news regarding the neighboring countries. If you are interested in news from Serbia & Montenegro and Croatia, you will find out much more if you read Nezavisne Novine. It needs to be stressed once more that a much larger number of articles in the Banja Luka daily regard issues from Serbia & Montenegro, but readers are not deprived of news from the other neighboring country either. On the other hand, Dnevni Avaz has a more balanced number of articles dealing with these two countries, but their number is considerably smaller. It is characteristic that these articles are usually carried from agencies and other media outlets.

Statistic only available at bosnian version pdf file


published by: Daniela Mathis date of release on this site /01/05 

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