Serbia: Debate on Media Depiction of Kosovo Children

B92 news have reported on the journalist association's reaction to the alleged mistreatment of children from Kosovo and Metohia (in further text K&M) during a talk show on national TV. Independent Association of Journalists of Serbia (NUNS) claims that the so-called public service TV tried to manipulate citizens in a Goebbels manner and mobilize them to support a constitution draft in the upcoming referendum. The bill is supposed to protect K&M by stating that the region is an indivisible part of Serbia, which gives a boost to the Serbian side in the ongoing negotiations to determine the future status of K&M. They say the talk show host Natasa Miljkovic should be denied membership in the journalists’ association because she used the finest of human emotions to fulfill political goals. State TV CEO Aleksandar Tijanic said that the filming took place before the referendum was announced. He also said that the association was trying to implement censorship so they could not depict the lives of K&M children. B92 news website (SRP) received a record number of comments in a very short time. The debate turns out to be not only about children but also about double standards and the priorities of the media that prevent ordinary citizens from knowing about the lives of their compatriots in the country's remote corners:


I was really stunned when I spotted all the kids around in the TV studio, it brings out special feelings in most of the viewers. […]


I couldn’t sleep all night. The journalist was really uncompassionate. I think the children were misused. We should help them, but this is not the way. […]

Nenad P.:

[…] She leads children into crying and then she asks them to promise they would not cry… shame on her!!! […] Why would one make a small girl talk about the death of her father and then make her promise she would not cry when talking about hurtful issues… [Journalist] feels in full control of ruthless reality. She carries on with sick games with children not lifting the pedagogic smile off her face. […]


[…] The show's hostess, Natasa Miljkovic, was unbearable! She is not up to the challenge of talking to those poor kids: instead of making the atmosphere more comfortable, she annoyed them additionally. She was unnatural and without compassion. Aside the topic of the dialogue, misuse and other issues, but the children were upset and irritated. You could see that from an airplane. The one who couldn’t see that, shouldn’t come close to any child! Sorry for the tough words, but what I saw was actually annoying.


I have seen the show. Terrible. The so-called journalist asking all the time: Are you afraid right now, what can happen to you now, what can happen during our walk now? Defeating. She used to be a sympathetic journalist[…]. I couldn’t believe she would dump so low and become such a servant of the authorities.


[…] She asked a 9-year-old girl: “What, that is the only topic you talk with your girlfriends?” (referring to her late father whose grave she can’t pay a visit to), or when she smiles shortly, fixes her hair and grumbles: “And, when was the last time you cried”? Or “Wait, you don’t play with guns”. […]

Kosovka Devojka:

I would like to pass impressions of my friends and other parents. We all live in [K&M]. Our children are raised here. Despite that, nobody I spoke to yesterday had any praise for that program. The title is more than offensive and humiliating. […] The journalist is not up to the challenge, the way she behaves is unprofessional and terrible, not only she is a lousy talk show hostess, she also does not know how to handle kids. We believe those children were misused and additionally traumatized. All left is a sour sensation after all. […] Shame on you!


[…] [Aleksandar] Tijanic, stated the show was filmed few months ago [before the referendum campaign]. If so, why the show was not broadcast a few months ago? Why was it filmed six years after [the NATO] bombing and the withdrawal of our forces from K&M. […]


I absolutely agree that the media membership card of […] Natasa Miljkovic should be taken away. I live in [K&M], I know how children live, but it is disgusting to name the show “Kosovo Serbian Kiddies” [in diminutive]. It is inadmissible to hassle our offspring the way she did. I hope the parents will sue the national television because of clear mistreatment. […]


The big professional miss was the show’s setting. If the author-journalist [Natasa Miljkovic] headed to [K&M] to make the show, all the imperfections noted by NUNS would fall off. […]


To be honest, I didn’t know how [K&M] children live. Simply, no mainstream media would bring me pictures or sounds of what’s going on there. Until last night. I can only thank the so-called public service TV. […] I would like to thank to the other media, too. But I will do that when they stop bombarding us only with stories showing “how foreigners react” or “who tells us to do what” […]

Stanisa Ognjanovic:

For many of us who don’t know people from [K&M], it is highly significant to hear their voices so we could understand what future might bring us.


Bravo for RTS [Radio Television of Serbia]! How freely they can show victims of other nationalities and, on the other hand, we can’t show our children because, according to NUNS, our children are not victims, they are part of [Slobodan Milosevic] conspiracy. The show was shocking. It is a disgrace no other channel could deal with this sort of topic.


[…] Is it a disgrace to show how kids live in the 21st century? It is real dishonor they can’t move a step away from their own village or district, scared of being targeted by Albanian terrorists?! […]


[…] I have got one question for the so-called independent media associations. Why don’t you react when the Serbian media broadcast those Srebrenica documentaries, showing Muslim children asked where their parents would be or Albanian children telling how they lived during Serbian ruling in [K&M]? How come those [NUNS] people say spree of [Albanian and Srebrenica children confessions] is confrontation with the past and not manipulation? What is the difference?


I would advise independent associations to take a look at BBC, they would see that this way of dealing with children at TV shows is implemented all the time. I would recommend RTS officials to send out the video to televisions abroad. Another advise is public service TV team visiting [K&M] and filming more documentaries concerning how inhabitants of the region live, if the journalists make it and survive, of course. Serbian citizens don’t get daily reports from [K&M] and that has to change. We have the right to know what happens there. Most of the people don’t know how refugees not only from K&M but also from Croatia and Bosnia suffer…


Media associations, leave it to us, common people, to sympathize with the poor children and their lives. Somebody is scared to play freely outdoors or to head to school without military escort today […], in the 21st century. Today, in the middle of Europe, our children are often affected by power cuts, they study with the light from a petrol lamp and use wood to heat the room. […]


Not so long ago I have seen a documentary on Sundans channel […]. It was announced the video would depict suffering of Serbian and Albanian children in [K&M]. Instead, Albanian children only were questioned directly on the topic of war in the region. With tears in their eyes kids tried to explain their feelings. I don’t see what’s wrong with showing young Serbian pupils suffering too. The worst thing is, they still do have to endure.

To je bol, a ne politika:

[…] This kind of propaganda should be directed to the West. People in [K&M] are victims of scary terror. Those not letting the voice of the suffering people out should be ashamed. [We need our story exposed internationally, now or never.]


You should see one TV show made by the Belgian national television. A Belgian journalist takes a small girl by the hand to Srebrenica [where the well-known massacre happened]. At the scene, they both talk to the children about how it was, what they remember, if they are sorry for all the people massacred and if they are still afraid something similar could take place. Nobody here, in the democratic countries of Holland and Belgium, […] reacted. […]


[…] I don’t understand some people complaining they have to pay public service TV tax and watch old partisan WWII movies. When they broadcast something unique like this, they still complain… The show was great. The journalist had a tough time, of course, dealing with the crying children vowing about the freedom they miss all the time. […]


[…] As soon as the national TV shows the suffering of Serbian kids, a bunch of Europeans and quasi-intellectuals vow in their defense. Where are they when there is a need for sending food and toys? […] Ask Native North-American Indians and their children living in reservations what they think about western democracy and permanent solution of the ethnic and children problems. Their life irresistibly reminds of the stories we heard during the show.


Would media associations complain if the children in question were Sudanese? Of course, they wouldn’t. There are two main issues about last night's show. First, the terrible incompetence of the journalist. Second, the goal of the program was not to inform viewers about the situation in K&M province, it was to mobilize masses for the upcoming referendum. The second issue would have been eliminated if the children had been Sudanese. Problem number one would stay unchanged because Natasa [Miljkovic] is truly awful.

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