TANJA & DEJAN MITROVIC AGAINST THE PRESS

Case Number: 996

Council Meeting: SEPTEMBER 2004

Verdict: Not Upheld

Publication: The Press

Ruling Categories: Balance, Lack Of
Bias
Accuracy

Dr Tanja and Dejan Mitrovic of Christchurch complain that The Press – in an article published in March – “violates the first principle of journalism: //…accuracy”.

They said it did this by omitting all references to Serbs as victims of the recent violence in Kosovo and by printing photographs and captions that gave the impression the only victims were Albanians.

The Press Council does not uphold the complaint.

The article that led to it was headed “Raids seek reason for violence” and was published on March 25.

Tanja and Dejan Mitrovic – members of the Christchurch Serbian community – said the article was a textbook example of manipulation of information by the news media because it did not say the violence was the result of organized attacks by Albanian extremists on the remaining Serbs in Kosovo.

They expected The Press to apologise and publish an article – selected by “representatives of the Serbian community and The Press editorial team”--- from a “world respected” newspaper.

The editor said it would be a mistake to judge coverage of the Kosovo violence – a “complicated and long-running story” --- by referring to a few articles only.

He said The Press had no interest in anything other than a fair, accurate account of the Balkans conflict and its coverage did not favour one ethnic group over another. Copies of a number of articles it had printed were provided to back this up.

In a subsequent letter the acting editor said when coverage of events in Kosovo in March was read in total it showed the culpability of the Albanians was discussed.

That did not satisfy Tanja and Dejan Mitrovic -- any more than fulfillment of their expectations would have satisfied the editor and his editorial team.

After years of civil war, terrorism and massacres in the Balkans any coverage has the potential to offend one or other of the protagonists.

In this case it seems the offence is the reference to 10,000 ethnic Albanians being killed in the war that ended in 1999, which was a recapitulation of past events at the end of the story.

However, the article which prompted the complaint, included an apology from a Swedish Brigadier-General, who told a meeting of Serb community leaders the potential for violence should have been anticipated and “… we got it wrong. For that I am very sorry”.

While he is not reported to have said anything directly about Albanian culpability, it is most unlikely there would have been an apology if there had been no Serb victims.

Taking that in to account, as well as other coverage by The Press of a continuing conflict with deep historical roots, the complaint is not upheld.