Serbian tabloids have been publishing sensationalist reports about the possibility of war with Albania and Kosovo, but analysts said this simply allows the authorities to present themselves as guarantors of security.
An upsurge of political tensions between Albania, Kosovo, and Serbia have caused Belgrade tabloids to warn of impending war – but their lurid predictions, in the absence of any genuine threat, only benefit all three countries’ ruling politicians, analysts claimed.
Recent issues of Serbian pro-government tabloid Informer have featured the headlines “CIA report: war of all against all threatens Balkans”, “Greater Albania means war on the entire Balkans”, and “[Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan prepares [Albanian PM Edi] Rama and [Kosovo President Hashim] Thaci for war”.
State-owned Vecernje novosti meanwhile reported on Tuesday that Serbian secret services had allegedly discovered a plot by “Turkish agents” to back a ‘Greater Albania’ project.
The tabloid frenzy erupted after Albania’s Prime Minister Edi Rama said in an interview with Politico on April 18 that his country could create “a ‘little union’ with Kosovo” if Brussels turn its back on the Balkans.
Kosovo President Hashim Thaci told Radio Free Europe the following day that “if the European Union closes its door to Kosovo, all Albanians in the region will live in one space, to further integrate into the European family”.
The comments led Serbian media to predict a war over the creation of a ‘Greater Albania’.
But Boban Stojanovic from the Belgrade Faculty of Political Science told BIRN that the media warmongering suits the governments of Serbia, Kosovo and Albania, which can use the furore to “animate their voters and present themselves as peacemakers”.
Statements by politicians also fuel the tabloid sensationalism, Tamara Skrozza, a member of the Appeal Commission of Serbia’s Press Council, told BIRN.
Just one “reckless sentence” from a politician can be used to whip up a sensationalist article, she explained.
Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic said on April 20 that the EU, US and Britain will be “responsible for the consequences” if they does not respond to the statements by the Albanian politicians.
Serbian Labour Minister Aleksandar Vulin followed up on April 25 by saying that said that the “synchronised statements” of Edi Rama and Hashim Thaci about the alleged unification of Albania and Kosovo must be met with a response.
These statements ensured that the ‘Greater Albania war’ story carried on running.
Stojanovic suggested that in the case of Serbia, the usual scenario is that state officials spark tensions so Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic can the calm the situation.
The situation usually culminates with statements from EU officials, calling for the calming of tensions, he added.
EU enlargement commissioner Johannes Hahn said on April 24 that he was annoyed about inflammatory statements from certain leaders in the region.
Skrozza said that the media warmongering was a violation of the Serbian Press Code.
“It is forbidden to journalists to bring fear to the readership, and media are not allowed to do journalism this way,” Skrozza insisted.
She said that the only threat of war was in the media itself.
“It is journalism’s task to be objective and to report truly, not [for journalists] to put themselves in the service of the regimes for which this situation is suitable,” she added.
By Maja Zivanovic
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