Stjepan Gredelj: The more we read, listen and watch, the less we know Building up and tearing down the public in Serbia during the previous decade

Introduction:

Background — the role and the goals of the media seizure

When, thirteen years ago, Slobodan Milosevic and bis clique had started campaign for taking over power in Serbia, the first Institution they had targeted — even before infiltration into police and army structures — was media System (Milosevics appetites towards total control over media were expressed openly since the very beginning of bis political launching. Immediately after his appointment as a head of League of Communists of Serbia (1986), at the meeting of Beigrade LCS committee, Milosevic had stated a ‘prophet’ sentence, threatening open purges in the Capital citys media: “The Situation in media will not change until there are more far-reaching changes in their editorial staffs. Regardless of what solution we come to, we will not solve the problem of the Duga and N/N (Bclgrade’s prestige weeklies) unless a serious reconstruction takes place.” (See: Stjepan Gredelj: Cleaning the decks. Agency Argument. Beigrade 1998, p. 17). Ehe initial brick was pulled out from the wall of‘media liberties’). According to the experience with the media struggles during the second part of the eighties in (former) Yugoslavia, Milosevic correctly recognized that control over (especially electronic) media is the most important pre-condition for a stable power holding. Namely in the previous period mentioned, some media in Yugoslavia had started to ignore ideological control and obedience and to express more and more open and critical opinions (“In the first half of the ninth decade, after I ito disappeared from the scene, there began what many considered to be an cncouraging liberation of the journalistic Professionals activities from its previous staunch political embrace. As political disputes in the federation grew and political confusion along them, the number of media multiplied that bravely weilt forth to demistify the political and ideological concepts prevailing in Yugoslavia. It was even bclieved that journalism (…) was on the right path to freeing itself from political restraints. Unfortunately, in the mid-1980s this initial upsurge was roughly stifled and the leading rushed lull steam into the political gristmill that simply ground them up.” (Ivan Torov: The Disintegration of Hope, ln: Republika, No. 172/1997)). This turnover was not only the result of ‘spontaneous’ resistance of journalists but it was also the result of conflicts within Federal League of Communists between hard-liners and soft-liners. The latter were inclined towards slow but significant implementation of reforms in society, while the former were supporlive to re-centralization of the state and reinforcement of federal authorities and centralized (Communist) power. Milosevic belonged to this conservative stream and he was very interested to sustain strong media control. Furthermore, he was fascinated with TV and its potential to easily persuade semi-illiieral viewers. But he was not squeamish on printed media either — prestige daily press including, like Politika and Borba. …

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