NATO bombing of the Radio Television of Serbia headquarters
|NATO bombing of the Radio Television of Serbia headquarters|
The damaged headquarters of RTS
|Location||Belgrade, Federal Republic of Yugoslavia|
|Date||April 24, 1999
02:06 am (CET)
|Target||Radio Television of Serbia|
The NATO bombing of the Radio Television of Serbia headquarters occurred on 23 April 1999, during the Kosovo War. It formed part of NATO's aerial campaign against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, and severely damaged the Belgrade headquarters of Radio Television of Serbia (RTS). Other radio and electrical installations throughout the country were also attacked. Sixteen employees of RTS died when a single NATO missile hit the building. Many were trapped for days, only communicating over mobile phones. The television station went to air 24 hours later from a secret location. NATO Headquarters justified the bombing with two arguments; firstly, that it was necessary "to disrupt and degrade the command, control and communications network" of the Yugoslav Armed Forces, and secondly, that the RTS headquarters was a dual-use object which "was making an important contribution to the propaganda war which orchestrated the campaign against the population of Kosovo". The BBC reported that the station was targeted because of its role in Belgrade's propaganda campaign; RTS had been broadcasting Serb nationalist propaganda, which demonised ethnic minorities and legitimised Serb atrocities against them.
A new building has since been built next to the bomb-damaged one, and a monument has been erected to those who were killed in the attack.
With the bombing of the Radio Television of Serbia headquarters NATO recognized that opponents' media is considered a weapon during the war.
Role of RTS
On 23 May 2011, Radio Television of Serbia (RTS) issued an official apology for the way their programming was misused for spreading propaganda and discrediting political opponents in the 1990s, and for the fact that their programming had "hurt the feelings, moral integrity and dignity of the citizens of Serbia, humanist-oriented intellectuals, members of the political opposition, critically minded journalists, certain minorities in Serbia, minority religious groups in Serbia, as well as certain neighbouring peoples and states." RTS also stated in the apology that there was no doubt that the state media were under the direct control of the late President of Serbia Slobodan Milošević and that Serbian state media were used by Milošević as a war tool for inciting ethnic hatred and deceiving his people in order to get the support needed to continue waging war in the former Yugoslavia.
While giving a speech at the Overseas Press Club sixtieth anniversary dinner, held on Thursday evening 22 April 1999 EST at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City, U.S. envoy to Yugoslavia Richard Holbrooke reacted to the NATO's bombing of the RTS headquarters almost immediately after it took place: "Eason Jordan told me just before I came up here that while we've been dining tonight, the air strikes hit Serb TV and took out the Serb television, and at least for the time being they’re off the air. That is an enormously important event, if it is in fact as Eason reported it, and I believe everything CNN tells me. If, in fact, they're off the air even temporarily, as all of you know, one of the three key pillars, along with the security forces and the secret police, have been at least temporarily removed. And it is an enormously important and, I think, positive development."
A report conducted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) entitled "Final Report to the Prosecutor by the Committee Established to Review the NATO Bombing Campaign Against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia" said:
Insofar as the attack actually was aimed at disrupting the communications network, it was legally acceptable ... NATO’s targeting of the RTS building for propaganda purposes was an incidental (albeit complementary) aim of its primary goal of disabling the Serbian military command and control system and to destroy the nerve system and apparatus that keeps Milošević in power
In regards to civilian casualties, it further stated that though they were, "unfortunately high, they do not appear to be clearly disproportionate."
In the case Markovic v. Italy, the European Court of Human Rights found that the government of Italy had not violated human rights. However, in 2002, Dragoljub Milanović, the general manager of RTS, was sentenced to 10 years in prison because he had not ordered the workers in the building to evacuate, despite knowing that the building would be bombed.
- "No justice for the victims of NATO bombings". Amnesty International. 23 April 2009. Retrieved 18 February 2013.
- McCormack 2006, p. 381.
- Was the Serbian TV station really a legitimate target?, by Claudio Cordone and Avner Gidron
- "Nato challenged over Belgrade bombing". BBC News. 2001-10-24. Retrieved 2010-05-20.
- "Court throws out case against NATO". BBC. 19 December 2001. Retrieved 18 February 2013.
- "Serbian Media Is a One-Man Show". New York Times. 10 August 1997. Retrieved 22 February 2013.
- de la Brosse, Renaud (2003). "Political Propaganda and the Plan to Create a "State for all Serbs": Consequences of Using the Media for Ultra-Nationalist Ends". Reims.
- Judah. The Serbs. Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-15826-7.
- Neda Atanasoski (2007). Niall Scott, ed. Monsters and the Monstrous: Myths and Metaphors of Enduring Evil. Rodopi. p. 73. ISBN 978-90-420-2253-9. Retrieved 27 August 2013. "By destroying RTS, the alliance affirmed that it recognized the media as a weapon during times of war - though, paradoxically, they only acknowledged it to be a weapon in the enemy's hands."
- RTS Apology
- Tanjug (24 May 2011). "State broadcaster "sorry" for 1990s". B92. Retrieved 10 July 2012.
- Amy Goodman (23 April 1999). "Pacifica Rejects Overseas Press Club Award". Pacifica Radio (New York: Democracy Now!).
- "Final Report to the Prosecutor by the Committee Established to Review the NATO Bombing Campaign Against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia". UNICTY.
- The New York Times, 22 June 2002, World Briefing | Europe: Yugoslavia: Ex-TV Boss Jailed Over NATO Bombing
- Krieger, Heike, ed. (2001). The Kosovo Conflict and International Law: An Analytical Documentation 1974-1999. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-80071-6.
- McCormack, Timothy (2006). McDonald, Avril; McCormack, Timothy, eds. Yearbook of International Humanitarian Law - 2003. The Hague: T.M.C. Asser Press. ISBN 978-90-6704-203-1.
- Full List of Casualties, compiled by the International News Safety Institute