Recently my stay here proved useful - like this wouldn't happen without a catalyst - getting Veran Matic of B92 and Silvije Vrbanac of Radio 101 together here in NY. They were both here through different programs. They did not know each other before the war. Veran did not really have time to waste on meeting a Croat radio station manager and Silvije was clear both with USIA (United States Information Agency) and CPJ (Committee for Protection of Journalist) that he does not want any comparations with Serbs, much less meeting them. Silvije insists that an open cooperation with any Serbian radio station, would just harm Radio 101 in terms of losing listeners.
|It is not that they are afraid of the government: the government doesn't like them anyway, says Silvije. It is just that after the years of war - which was after all waged on Croatia and not on Serbian soil, and without a word of apology from any Serbian political leader, which, Silvije believes, it is still due, there is a sort of resentment and contempt for anything that comes from Serbia in Zagreb. In a sense Zagreb youth is going through the emancipation of Yugoslavia (which they identify with the Balkans: so Silvije hates that my pages are called The Balkans Pages), that is beyond hate: it is what Slovene youth went through in the mid-eighties: there is no interest for what happens South of them.||Veran understands that. He, also, knows, that unlike Radio 101, B92 cannot survive on its own, because there are not enough privately owned businesses in Belgrade courageous enough to finance it. So, he depends on foreign help. That help cannot come from Croatia, which is better off than Serbia, but still not in such a shape to help democratic movements in neighboring countries. So, despite Veran would love to have deeper relationship with Radio 101, which would raise the credentials of B92 (making them look even more tolerant, democratic and peace-loving), it is not such a high priority. They both have to concentrate on the problems of surviving in their own environment. Meetings like this are romantic luxuries which may or may not evoke a more pleasant past or, more likely, bring home a nightmare.|
But, I knew both of them from way before and they both called me when they were here, so I organized a little subversion by calling them at the same time at the same place. They, of course - knowing me, knew that would happen, but went along cheerfully: after all their dictators - Tudjman and Milosevic - meet regularly at posh western locations to exchange the experiences on how to better oppress their people - so why wouldn't now the independent media executives meet to exchange their experiences on how to better resist that oppression?
...because, there are two things B92 and 101 do have in common:
- They are both expanding and syndicating their program: Radio 101's most popular political show Weekreport (RealAudio available) is now syndicated to 12 different FM stations in Croatia, covering almost all bigger cities. Radio B92 supplies with its program using sattelite links even larger number of stations covering roughly 70% of Serbia.
- They are both after your money. The expansion and the fight with the rigid government bureaucracies in their countries both cost money. Radio 101 owners need to raise $70,000 by the end of October in order to retain ownership over their station.
If Veran and particularly Silvije agreed to the meeting out of their free will, or if the meeting was official, done by USIA or CPJ or any other governmental or non-governmental organization, the state-sponsored media in their respective countries would tear them apart, which would ultimately harm 101 and B92 - after all while Silvije and Veran were here both in Croatia and in Serbia a severe attack on freedom of the press was under way: in Croatia the toughest media law was passed making journalists liable not only for what they actually say or write but for their intentions (which is completely Orwellian concept) and in Serbia Milosevic just purged a few of the top independent editors and journalists.
No, Silvije and Veran could only meet by accident and completely unofficial - I hope this small token will help the peace process.