By Mladen Lakic
Coverage of the Srebrenica massacres and Bosnian Serb forces’ siege of Sarajevo in a series starring Morgan Freeman has sparked accusations of anti-Serb propaganda against the National Geographic Channel.
The screening of a National Geographic Channel programme in the Morgan Freeman series ‘The Story of Us’ has sparked accusations of anti-Serb bias and counter-accusations alleging that wartime crimes are being denied.
In the programme, which was broadcast on Sunday, Freeman is shown around the Srebrenica genocide memorial by well-known Bosnian TV journalist Senad Hadzifejzovic and his son.
The Hollywood star also visits Sarajevo, talks about the three-and-a-half-year siege of the city by Bosnian Serb forces, and discusses Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic’s culpability for the 1992-95 war.
The Bosnian Serb official news agency SRNA published angry reactions from well-known Serb analysts on Tuesday, accusing the National Geographic Channel of depicting Serbs as war criminals during the 1990s conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
“We have seen for 25 years many similar attempts to present the Serbs as war criminals in the former Yugoslavia and as the criminal party, so in this sense, this is not surprising,” Banja Luka-based writer Vladimir Kecmanovic told SRNA.
Belgrade-based analyst Dragomir Andjelkovic meanwhile described the Freeman programme as “propaganda” that should be systematically countered.
Others have complained that Freeman did not mention Serb war victims in the programme, giving a one-sided view of wrongdoing in the Bosnian war.
But Zlatiborka Popov Momcinovic, a Sarajevo-based peace activist, said that these reactions were an attempt to deny what actually happened.
“Every time when the responsibility of Serb leaders is mentioned, you will find these or similar reactions, which shows us that efforts to face the past must be stronger,” Popov Momcinovic told BIRN.
“Without understanding the past, we have nothing, and cases like this one show us how this topic is sensitive and important,” she added.
Some 8,000 Bosniaks were massacred after Bosnian Serb forces overran Srebrenica in July 1995 – the worst atrocities in Europe since World War II.
The Bosnian state court and the Hague Tribunal have sentenced 38 people to a total of 637 years in prison, plus three life sentences, for the killings.
The landmark verdict was the first-instance conviction of Radovan Karadzic, the former Bosnian Serb president. Karadzic – currently the only political leader to have been found guilty of genocide – was sentenced to 40 years in prison by the UN war crimes court in The Hague in 2016.
The former Bosnian Serb military commander Ratko Mladic was sentenced to life imprisonment in November last year after being convicted of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.