The Death of “The Death of Yugoslavia” - February 9, 2005


Written by: Andy Wilcoxson


Mitar Balevic concluded his testimony at the Hague Tribunal on Wednesday. He was cross-examined by Mr. Nice and subsequently re-examined by President Milosevic.


During the cross-examination Mr. Nice played a couple of brief excerpts from a BBC documentary entitled “The Death of Yugoslavia.” Mr. Nice played the video clips to try and refute Balevic’s testimony regarding Milosevic’s visit to Kosovo Polje in 1987.


Unfortunately for the prosecutor, the tribunal’s interpreters exposed the movie as a fraud.


“The Death of Yugoslavia” features an interview with a man named Miroslav Solovic, and if you read the BBC’s subtitles of the interview you get the impression that gravel was purposely trucked to Kosovo Polje so that demonstrators could throw the rocks at the police.


As it turns out, the BBC’s subtitles do not correspond to the actual words being spoken. Solovic isn’t saying that anybody brought rocks to throw at the police. Solovic said that rocks had been trucked in “to expand the pavement.” In other words, the gravel was brought in so that it could be spread out over the ground.


The BBC also falsified Milosevic’s words to the demonstrators, when he said, “nobody must beat you” in response to some people who told him they were being beaten by the police.


According to the BBC’s phony subtitles he said, “nobody will beat you again!” The BBC added the word “again,” which makes his statement sound like some sort of threat.


This really calls the credibility of the documentary into question. The prosecution only played a couple of brief clips. But, if this many falsified subtitles can be found on just this brief portion of the documentary, imagine how messed-up the rest of the documentary must be.


Falsifying subtitles is only one trick that the BBC can use. The BBC can also edit the interviews in a malicious fashion to take the speaker out of proper context.


In fact, former Yugoslav presidency member Borislav Jovic, who is featured in the documentary, attacked the film when he testified at the tribunal last November as a witness for the prosecution. He accused the BBC of taking his words out of their proper context when they edited the final tape.


President Jovic said that the documentary’s “general approach was a construed, contrived, and incorrect approach which devalues everything stated in the programme.” (Milosevic trial transcript, November 20, 2003, pp. 29436-29437)


In spite of the serious credibility issues surrounding the film, the prosecution relies on it quite heavily, and wants to introduce it as an exhibit in the trial.


Mr. Nice has pledged (on more than one occasion) that the raw footage of the interviews used in the documentary would be made available. So far Mr. Nice has not exhibited any of the BBC’s raw footage. He has only played excerpts from the documentary, which were edited and cut by the BBC.


In fact, when Mr. Nice was playing the clips today, he had to play an edited version of the documentary, which removed the BBC’s voiceover commentary. The tribunal has ruled that video taped interviews are admissible, but commentary from reporters is not.


What the tribunal fails to consider is the fact that editing is a form of commentary that can color a viewer’s perception as much as voice-over commentary. Mr. Nice should be held to task, and only allowed to use the raw unedited footage that he claims to have access to.


The next witness on the docket is former Yugoslav diplomat, Vladislav Jovanovic. The trial has been cancelled on Thursday because Milosevic still has a fever from the flu he is recovering from.


Mr. Nice, who is quite the little conspiracy theorist, told the court that he believes Milosevic’s flu is the result of a “pattern” that Milosevic employs to buy more time to prepare his defense. Apparently, Slobodan Milosevic has involved the UN medical staff in this conspiracy, because they’ve issued a medical report stating that he has the flu.


The trial is scheduled to resume on Monday, February 14th.

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