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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

2006, Vol, 6 No. 1 .

Prime Time Crime: Balkan Media in War and Peace
Kemal Kurspahic

Washington DC: United States Institute of Peace Press, 2003, 288pp, PB, $19.95,
ISBN 1-929223-38-2.

Many prominent scholars and politicians have tried to understand and even solve the puzzle of the destruction of Yugoslavia. Prime Time Crime: Balkan Media in War and Peace by Kemal Kurspahic offers a compelling tale of power, control, threat and the few who tried very hard to preserve their journalistic integrity during the Balkan conflicts. Kurspahic examines very closely Slobodan Milosevic?s stronghold on the media and his callous use of it to stir up favorable propaganda for his murderous and genocidal expansionism. In other words, every bullet and grenade fired, every fallen civilian and concentration camp prisoner, every Muslim woman raped, and every historic monument was headed by careful media preparation. Prime Time Crime is a combination of modern history and first-person insight into the decline of the Yugoslavia?s media into nationalism.

The book starts with the comparison of media in Yugoslavia during the 35-year long rule of President Josip Broz Tito with happenings in other East European countries. Kurspahic continues with detailed analysis of the key role played by the media in Milosevic?s and Tudjman?s rise to power. The attempt of Croatian military forces to cover up their crimes during the defensive war for Croatia and their aggression against Bosnia and Herzegovina is thoroughly analyzed. Following this analysis is a detailed description of how media managed to destroy the multi-ethnic structure of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Kurspahic also provides the reader with the factual evidence of how media played an important role in the post-war period and emphasizes the importance of local capacities, which were, according to Kurspahic, ignored and not fully utilized. At the end of the book, Kurspahic provides the reader with recommendations for the international community and gives an overview of international community efforts that could have been handled differently while trying to promote free media.

Kurspahic?s contribution to an understanding of this war is his argument regarding the willingness of the people to accept the crimes of its leaders as a natural part of the progression to statehood. The media?s crime was its biased and willing participation in using nationalistic and war crime supportive language. Prime Time Crime consists of comprehensive interviews with the writer?s colleagues who, like him, were not willing to betray their principles of professional journalism for the sake of serving the nationalistic leaders.

Prime Time Crime by Kemal Kurspahic, one of the most prominent and respected journalists in the Balkans, is an extraordinary book that should be required reading for students and professors of journalism, peace and conflict resolution and modern Balkan history. This book should be read by journalists everywhere but especially those reporting from conflict or post-conflict areas. This book helps historians to gain the knowledge of a complicated region?s economic, political and societal developments that precipitated war and further inflamed already existent nationalistic feelings. This book helps in solving one piece of the destruction of Yugoslavia puzzle and it provides the reader with warning signs and results of media captured and abused by nationalistic leaders.

Olja Hocevar Van Wely, Peacebuilding Independent Consultant

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