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08. 10. 2018.

Author: Jelena L. Petković ???source???: UNS

Journalist Nikola Radisic about the investigation of the murders of journalists in Kosovo: The international community was only striving to fill its pockets, and Kosovan politicians from the KLA to obtain both the money and the positions

- Until the disappearance of Marjan Melonasi, we did not quite understand that the journalists were a target. After him, another of our friends disappeared. When it comes to investigations, the favorite justification of UNMIK police was "There are many things going on, you know, there are a lot of problems, you know, we do not have the information, you know, please help us." The point is that they just did not care at all.

Working for the United Nations, I realized, and that is why I have never wanted to work there again, that it is one interest group with the sole purpose of taking the money and leaving. They do not care who is in the right, who is a Serb, who is an Albanian. Mind you, there are wonderful people there, who had noble motives, but the essence of everything is work. Most of them came because of their resume, since going on a mission, especially the one considered dangerous, is a prerequisite for advancement in the UN hierarchy even today - the journalist Nikola Radisic, who worked for UNMIK Press Service in 1999 and 2000, and works on TV N1 today, recounts for the Journalists’ Association of Serbia - UNS.

The normal ones are the first to go down

 - Marjan worked with a female friend who lived with us, and the five of us were renting a house in Gracanica. He had visited us and that is how I met him. He was a great young man, unburdened with either nationality or nonsense. One normal human being, but I guess they are probably the first ones to go down. Olivera just told us only one day that he was gone. I am deeply convinced that he was kidnapped because he worked at the Serbian news desk with a Serbian woman, in Serbian language, was a normal man and strived to be a true journalist. Albanian Journalists were a special target because of their work, since an Albanian publishing a text that his compatriots have created problems for Serbs has a far greater impact. I believe that our Serb colleagues were killed and kidnapped because of their work and because they were Serbs. Marjan was specifically threatened for working  at the Serbian news desk, for speaking Serbian and, in general, for helping Serbs.

  After everything he has heard, seen, and experienced, and after keeping track of events in Kosovo for years, Radisic does not believe that he will ever find out who the killers and the kidnappers of the missing and murdered journalists are. 

  - Why is this still unknown? Who is keeping track of this? UNS is the only one which reminds the public about the two unfortunate colleagues Ranko Perenic and Djura Slavuj, the media report about it and that is it. That is why it is completely hypocritical to talk about protecting journalists and impunity for violence against journalists today. To me, the international community, who just did not care at all, is the prime culprit because it only sought to fill its pockets; followed by Kosovan politicians from KLA ranks who are trying to keep their positions and the money they can take. I am talking about Kosovo’s responsibility, because what can Belgrade do there? In addition, is the investigation in the interest of very controversial Albanian political elite, since all of them are war leaders? Is it in their interest for it to become known that their soldiers were potentially making trouble even after the war?

Journalism as humanitarian work

- Initially, I translated the texts of foreign journalists at UNMIK. However they quickly realized that I had journalistic experience, so I soon started going to the field with them. My role was to notice the problems of the Serbian community, and try to help through a story. These were not huge things, but, for example, I wrote about two Serb women who lived near the cinema in Pristina and were constantly bullied, stoned and beaten by local Albanians. We helped protect them by writing a text. We helped in the delivery of food to some people, in raising the security around the famous Yu Program building, because these people were constantly being attacked. Colleague Gordana and I viewed our work as humanitarian work - says Radisic.

Life-threatening propaganda 

  About his departure to Kosovo and the situation that he encountered there, Nikola Radisic says for UNS Dossier that at the beginning of the bombing, he lost his job on RTS, then on Studio B, but also in "Blic" which "quite soon began censoring all texts and it was impossible to work." In July 1999, a friend from Pristina mentioned vacancies in the United Nations.   

- He told me to wait for September, to "calm down a bit," but I was desperate. The German woman, Kristen Haupt informed me to come to the testing and I went to Pristina on one of the last regular buses from Belgrade. Luckily, I alighted in the city center, not at the bus station. The woman who sat next to me alighted there. She came to find transportation to Prizren, because she had not heard from her son and husband for days. Later on, I learned that the Albanian extremists often waited for Serbs, who then disappeared, at the Pristina station. I suppose that woman went missing that day.

Propaganda and fake news

- When I came to Kosovo, some media in Belgrade were reporting that people were missing, that they were being murdered, but the information was so contradictory that you could not trust anyone. Belgrade media often reported incorrectly about developments in Kosovo, and on the other hand, there was a lot of propaganda in UNMIK’s news, even though we tried to minimize it - says Nikola Radisic.

Recalling his first encounter with Pristina, Radisic points out the contradiction between news reports and reality, adding that, although he was a journalist, "because of the prevailing propaganda in Serbia, he had no idea what awaited him."

- I realized very quickly that I put my head in the lion’s mouth. A month after I had moved in with Gorani friends in Pristina, they knocked on the door and gave us a seven-day deadline to move out. We had to go to Gracanica straight away. Since I worked at UNMIK Press Service, I had access to the Head, Bernard Kouchner, and I informed him that we had to go to Gracanica because we would be murdered in Pristina. He immediately secured a car and police protection that constantly accompanied us. 

Preconception that only Serbs are criminals

- In UNMIK Press Service, where I worked, the foreigners were trying to be friendly to us, some understood us a bit more, however everyone had come with a preconception that only Serbs were criminals. We helped a lot to open their eyes, and they would quickly realize that there were problems on both sides and that the other side might have caused reactions. The Albanian team that worked with us on the Blue Sky radio relaxed their guard toward us over time, however whenever there were ethnic stories, intolerance prevailed. We tried to point out that Albanians were beating and murdering, and they did not want to broadcast it. However, when it comes to the instances of the Albanians losing their lives, they pinned the worst possible qualifications on the Serbs. The foreigners would "iron" it. My colleague and I devised new routes in various situations, and we also changed UNMIK’s official documents. Wherever there was Kosova in the database, we changed that A into an O. Also Pristin into Pristina. That was our little fight – recalls the interlocutor of UNS Dossier.

Head in the lion’s mouth because of the Serbian language

At that time, we did not dare speak our language on the street, Radisic underlined the working conditions of Serbian journalists in Pristina. 

-  Both mu colleagues and I were in a situation that we had to run. I was once speaking in Serbian on the phone, quite quietly, to say in the end "Zdravo [Bye]." At that moment, I heard curses in Albanian from a truck that was passing by. I was on the street leading to the building of the current Kosovo government. The driver hit the gas and headed towards me. I ran towards the parking lot and I managed to run between the parking bollards in front of the UN building, where he could not pass, before he caught up to me. This is what saved me, maybe saved my life. 

He also recalls being showered by stones by the "bridge guards" in the northern part of Kosovska Mitrovica, on the only road by which he could reach the UN office in the southern part of the town, and then Pristina. 

- We barely managed to escape, and the French soldiers cocked their rifles at them.

  At the protest of the Albanians against the arrival of Bishop Artemije in Orahovac, in January 2000, for the first time since the war, Radisic thought  to himself that he would not get away.. 

- I got my first gray hair then. I went to a side street that separates the Serbian from the Albanian part of the town to do a story about the Roma who had assembled a radio out of an old cassette player and were broadcasting a program. On my way back, I was waylaid by the KLA veterans who were protesting against Artemije’s visit. I pushed forward a bit, however after two or three rows of people I could move neither back nor forward. Only then did I realize that I was wearing a "Mont" jacket, which was like a Serb ID card. In desperation, I shouted in English "May I pass?". An Albanian got hold of me and literally threw me out of the protesters right to the police. I noticed a girl, who worked for the OSCE, and overcome with joy blurted out "It's wonderful what you are here". All color drained from her face because I addressed her in Serbian and the protesters overheard. She barely managed to pull out alive because of that. Those were the conditions in which we worked. It was impossible to go anywhere unaccompanied. It was dangerous and it was not easy. Your country, your language, but you had to keep silent and try and stay alive. 

Normal schizophrenic situations

-  The first day I came to Pristina, a Gorani friend took me to the apartment which had already been outfitted by security bars, and then he said that we were going to a Serbian party in Kicma (a settlement in Pristina), but that we are waiting for the Canadian police to escort us. We were stopped by two US police officers in Peyton Place. They asked for help because they came across two Serb women who were beaten and almost killed by Albanians who had broken into their house. After that shock, I went to a crazy party with alcohol, which was as if we were in the center of Belgrade. These are the schizophrenic situations that I encountered in Pristina, and in fact, in those circumstances, it was somehow normal - the N1 reporter describes his first days in Pristina.

When it comes to the work of Serbian journalists in Kosovo today, Nikola Radisic thinks things have changed a little, because at the time when he worked there, both Hashim Thaci and Ramush Haradinaj refused to speak in Serbian.  

- When Serb son and father got blown up in a car, Haradinaj, Agim Ceku and Ibrahim Rugova came immediately. None of them turned around when I asked them questions in Serbian. I started running after them and repeating the questions while their security was laughing at me. An exasperated Rugova looked at me and asked in Serbian, "What do you want from me, man?" Then he turned around and left. This was the communication with Kosovan politicians who were building a multiethnic Kosovo, who visited the location where Serbs had been murdered and were allegedly sorry. This gang is to protect us journalists? I do not believe them now, just as I did not believe them at the time.

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