A view from the front

May 05, 1999

This is an excerpt of remarks by Christiane Amanpour, chief international correspondent for CNN, to the Freedom Forum in New York on April 13.

IN MY years of covering Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo, the most terrible things were often first reported by journalists from eyewitness accounts. And then they were proven true: the death camps in Bosnia, the mass graves, for instance.

Of course, none of the Albanian refugees on Serbian television are portrayed as fleeing the terror campaign; Serb officials insist they are only fleeing NATO bombing. And most Serbs believe that because there is no alternative other than state-controlled media.

Some ask, "But doesn't NATO also restrict its information?" Yes. But there is no moral nor practical equivalent between a dictatorship carrying out what many are now calling crimes against humanity and a military organization of the free democratic world, which is subject to scrutiny of a free and vigorous press.

And lest anyone doubt Belgrade, one of the few prominent independent Serbian journalists was recently shot dead near his home. This has a chilling effect.

Consider the way some Western news organizations covered Arkan, [Serbian paramilitary leader Zeljko Raznatovic], whose secret indictment by the war-crimes tribunal at The Hague was made public on March 31. He is a legitimate news story. But if one is going to give a man like that air time, one is obliged to challenge him.

This is one of the most brutal psychopathic killers to patrol the Balkans. Yet several global news organizations allowed him to simply air his views. He was allowed to accuse me of getting him indicted, and CNN of lying about the plight of Kosovar Albanians. It was predictable, yes. But unchallenged, surely we cannot accept that.

The burden surely is on the reporters to face him with knowledge and information, to have the courage and willingness to do it right.

Pub Date: 5/05/99

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