Saturday, March 11, 2006

The ongoing campaign to rewrite the history of the Bosnian War at the expense of both the Muslim population and the truth continues, with the bizarre anti-Bosnian alliance of far-right nationalists, anti-Muslim bigots, and far-left anti-Western/US/NATO gettting an assist from Sky News. This lovely piece of 'reporting' deserves to be thoroughly examined:

Over-the-top 'expose' on Mujahideen in Bosnia

It's an eight-minute clip using old footage from the 1990's, brief footage of downtown Sarajevo, and little if any sense of recent history or balance. The gist of it is this--during the war, foreign mujahideen come to Bosnia to fight on the (mostly-Muslim) government side. Most of these volunteers were there to fight jihad, not to lend aid to a secular, democratic government. They brought foreign ideas (such as Wahabbi Islam from Saudi Arabia), and many of them used the instability of the region (as well as the chaos attending wartime) to change their names and identities. Although most left after the war, some of them stayed behind. Furthermore, there are signs of some Islamist influence in Bosnia now, including the occassional bearded gentleman and veiled lady in downtown Sarajevo. Also, the locals in the Zenica area were hostile to the reporter when he came by to ask questions. And now there is little accounting for what happened to the former mujahideen who were in the area.

OK, then. The reasonably-informed reader might wonder why this is 'news' ten-plus years after the fact. When you quickly learn that video of these mujihadeen has been recently found, you have your explanation--modern broadcast journalism is driven by what footage is available versus what stories need to be told, after all.

So, fine. Sky News has acquired some dated--but never-before-seen!--footage of a not-unknown aspect of the war in Bosnia. While the Sky report plays this footage up as a shocking expose of something you 'aren't supposed to know,' the information is old news. It has been documented before. It is true that this aspect of the Bosnian war wasn't dwelled on in the media at the time, and no doubt the Clinton Adminstration was anything but eager to advertise the fact.

Those who would discredit the cause of solidarity with the wartime government of Bosnia and Herzegovina and its people have had a field day with the 'hidden' news about mujahideen 'armies' in Bosnia--using this (admittedly under-reported) facet of the conflict to insinuate any number of sinister realities: the rise of militant Islam in Bosnia; US complicity in the rise of Al Qaeda; a vast plot somehow connected to the September 11, 2001 attacks. The possibilities are endless, if one is disingenuous and committed to distorting honest discourse.

It is one thing for assiduously cynical purveyors of shadowy conspiracies to exploit the general publics lack of detailed information--drawing non-existent connections between decontextualized facts, in order to infer sinister conclusions. That is what people of that sort do; as tiresome as it may be, it is sadly true that "The Protocals of the Elders of Zion" still needs refuting.

It is quite another matter, however, when an ostensibly objective journalist for a major broadcast news outlet chooses to present such a contentious point of view. If a responsible journalist is presented with decade-old footage from a still-infamous war, he or she should honor the responsibility to put these images in context. These are inflammatory images, which could easily reopen wounds which are not yet fully healed and threaten the fragile and piecemeal rebuilding of severed connections.

A responsible journalist would have tread with care, with wisdom and moderation, and at the very least with a balanced and informed judgement. This 'reporter' chose a different path.

I haven't watched this piece in a few days. Because I am at work, I cannot watch the piece with sound at the moment. I will review it tonight or tomorrow, and return with a more detailed analysis shortly.

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