What a difference four years makes. Now, while CNN, The New York Times, the Associated Press, and their respective rivals, are publishing impressive special sections dedicated to the civil war in Kosovo and NATO's bombing of Serbia, the Internet has allowed for scores of new information outlets to publish their version of breaking events and to spotlight their own choice of key background information.
The justifiably famous Radio B92 -- the ragtag gang of Belgrade intellectuals who were shut down by Slobodan Milosevic for a third time on March 24 -- is still broadcasting and publishing online. Their site has been overwhelmed with traffic since the first bombs fell, and their many URLs take several minutes to load.
And there are many other new English-language news sources, including a Serb Orthodox monk typing from a 12th-century monastery in Kosovo, right- and left-wing groups in America, the Kosovo Liberation Army, the Serbian government and individual ex-Yugoslavs who are filling in newsgroups with reports from their neighborhoods and bitter arguments about the past.
The following is a list of 24 sites that provide timely news and information about Kosovo, Serbia and the Balkans -- all from non-traditional sources not likely to show up in many people's bookmarks. Nearly every publisher on this list has reporters or communication with people on the ground in the conflict zones; all improve the quantity and quality of data from the region.
The sites are presented, roughly, in order of usefulness and reliability. Each site's political point of view is summarized; the news sites are then split into categories of "relatively independent" and "partisan." There is a final section of outstanding aggregators -- publications providing links to breaking coverage, commentary and terrific background links.
NEWS FROM THE GROUND: RELATIVELY INDEPENDENT
Kosova Crisis Center
Political Line: Launched by Kosovar Albanian students and professionals "to keep the world informed with the facts from the ground about the Serb atrocities committed against women, children and elderly people, as well as the oppression against everything Albanian in Kosova."
Content: Publishes a dozen or so articles a day from Kosovo, usually from Kosova Press and the AP, but also from its own sources. Posts transcripts of telephone conversations and e-mail letters from residents of besieged villages. Archives to December 1998. Also includes a dozen essays arguing for independence, plus other historical essays, quotes of the week, links to a dozen independent news sites about Kosovo and links to another dozen human rights organizations. Hosts another six Kosovo-based nonprofits.
Sample: "Baton Haxhiu, editor-in-chief of Koha Ditore, the biggest Albanian daily newspaper in Kosova was executed today in Prishtina by the Serbian police. The newspaper's publisher Veton Surroi as well as the President of Kosova have gone into hiding to escape from Serbian execution. Serbian police is going door-to-door in the capital of Prishtina and killing the Albanian intelligencia."
Institute for War & Peace Reporting
Political Line: London-based nonprofit that "aims to inform the international debate on conflict and provides training and a platform for independent media and other democratic voices."
Content: The front page includes a handful of breaking news from correspondents in the field, and analysis from scholars in the home office. Posts bi-weekly section called Media Focus, which monitors what the local media is saying in the former Yugoslavia; other sections focus on the war crimes trial in The Hague and the state of affairs in the Caucasus. No archives yet but there are 68 links from the IPWR "reference files."
Sample: "On the streets, I could hear lots of shouting: cursing at Albanians, NATO, America, Britain, Clinton, Blair, Muslims, Turks — everyone who doesn't speak Serbian."
Alternative Information Network in Former Yugoslavia
Political Line: A network of independent journalists from each country in the Balkans, with central editorial offices in Paris, which is "oriented towards analytical articles, reportage, commentaries and interviews aimed at preventing manipulation with information, offering a comprehensive picture and background of an event."
Content: One long article per day, archives to December 1993 and links to a half-dozen human rights and free-press organizations.
Sample: "The dominant feeling in the Albanian capital a day after NATO air strikes against the Serbian military installations seems to be a mixture with pleasure and fear. The Albanians approve without reticence the punishment inflicted to Milosevic but they fear that the conflict would spill over to Albania and that Milosevic would take a revenge."
Network of East-West Women -- Kosova War Update
Political Line: Published by a multinational nonprofit designed to "empower women and girls throughout the East (Central and Eastern Europe, and NIS and the Russian Federation) and the West" and "suppor[t] action and joint projects inspired by feminist principles."
Content: Includes weekly roundups from Pristina (archived from May 1998), plus two or three other articles each week from Kosovo, some straight round-ups and other reflections on women's issues. Also features dispatches from Belgrade and Zagreb, links to independent media and letters.
Sample: "I was having pains to deliver my baby when we were forced to leave the village. We heard the severe shooting, we saw tanks and army running straight to the village. We fled as we were. I was with pains and I had to run, I had to save the lives of my children. We decided to go to Macedonia, to a safer area. Pains started at 02.30 CET, and in that stage we had to run in the morning. I could not walk, but I had to, who could carry me. At the border, I started to deliver the baby and guns were pointed on our heads. I gave birth to a dead girl. She died because I was scared and faced the hard time. She was alive when the pains started, I could feel her."
Beta Daily News
Political Line: Independent-sounding news agency based in Belgrade.
Content: Posts a handful of extended briefs, plus dozens of headlines with no links. Also publishes "Kosovo Online" in conjunction with the shuttered Pristina newspaper Koha Ditore. No archives, but there is a search engine.
Sample: "The general attitude of the public was vividly depicted by a rock concert organized at the central square in Belgrade on the afternoon of March 27. Attendance at the concert, which was held despite an air raid alert in effect at the time, was estimated at at least 15,000 people. Most of the audience consisted of the same people who spent months protesting against the government three years ago."
RFE/RFL NewsLine -- Southeastern Europe
Political Line: Descendants of U.S. Cold War radio services, now based in Prague.
Content: Two dozen daily briefs from the Balkans, from "correspondents, services and regional specialists of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty," which are also available via e-mail. Links to NewsLine daily reports on Russia, Transcaucasia & Central Asia, Central & Eastern Europe. Archives available from April 1997. RFE/RFL's main site also has years worth of archives and reports and links, in several languages.
Sample: "Consistent but unconfirmed reports by refugees arriving
in Albania and Macedonia over the 26-28 March weekend suggest that Serbian
security forces and paramilitaries have launched a systematic campaign of
'ethnic cleansing' in much of northern and western Kosova, including
Albanian Daily News
Political Line: Online edition of four-year-old privately owned Tirana-based newspaper.
Content: Posts five or so of the newspaper's daily reports for free; full issue available to paid subscribers.
Sample: "Serbian forces shot at an Albanian border post and shelled two villages, wounding a border guard, damaging houses and triggering return fire in north-eastern Albania early on Thursday, as NATO bombed Yugoslav military targets, an Albanian army spokesman said."
International Crisis Group
Political Line: Brussels-based private think-tank "committed to strengthening the capacity of the international community to understand and respond to impending crises." The ICG board is chaired by former U.S. Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell. Strongly in favor of NATO bombing.
Content: From its field offices located throughout the Balkans, publishes news from region once or twice a week, coupled with a list of recommendations to multilateral organizations such as the United Nations and NATO. Site's true gold mine is a batch of comprehensive background reports from across the Balkans (plus Algeria and Cambodia).
Sample: "Some 20,000-30,000 Kosovars are trapped in the Drenica area, moving from one place to another in order to avoid reprisals by Yugoslav and Serbian security forces and irregulars. Another 30,000 Kosovars are said to be on the run in the Pec region in western Kosovo, making their way north. There are further reports of large numbers of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in other parts of Kosovo."
Kosovo Focus on Human Rights -- Human Rights Watch
Political Line: Published by Human Rights Watch, a well-known fighter for human rights.
Content: Posts three or four newsflashes daily about reported human rights abuses and issues in the region; issues a "credible" rating if able to independently confirm. Archives from March 1998. Sections detailing international laws and conventions being violated, progress on the war crimes trial in The Hague, photographs, background, and links to two dozen rights groups, media outlets and intranational organizations.
Sample: "Another of the five [reportedly killed] was the editor-in-chief of Koha Ditore, Baton Haxhiu. Human Rights Watch worked closely with Mr. Haxhiu during the past four years. He was a committed and outspoken critic of Yugoslav government abuses against ethnic Albanians, and of the international community's inaction in the face of these abuses over the past decade."
Tabloid: Kosovo Special
Political Line: Tabloid's editors, including this correspondent, have all lived in and reported from the Balkans.
Content: Correspondent Jim Lowney provides ongoing eyewitness accounts and Photographs. Site also features links to two years' worth of Tabloid coverage and commentary about the looming Kosovo crisis.
Sample: "Dressed in peasants' clothes and colorful head scarves, the Moslem women screamed with grief as they gathered around the bodies. Men dressed in nylon sports jackets unzipped the top of each bag and pulled back the plastic to expose yellow faces frozen in pain."
NEWS FROM THE GROUND: PARTISAN
Political Line: Official Site of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA).
Content: Publishes two to 10 brief newsflashes per day, almost all about Serb military violence against Kosovar Albanians. Includes archives back to March 1, KLA history and statements and links to nine other news sources.
Sample: "Unseen terror and massacre in the city of Gjakova has happened few days ago and is going to happen again. More than 80 people are reported to be killed in Teqe te Gjakoves."
Political Line: Appears to be linked to the KLA.
Content: Links to six to 15 items per day about Serb violence, NATO bombing and diplomatic speeches. Uses its own reporters and links to sources such as Kosova Press, the Kosovo Crisis Center, AP, the United States Information Service, Human Rights Watch, the Balkan Action Council and more. Archives go back one week. Includes a collection of political essays, news and photos of Albanians killed by Serbs and the sound files to a dozen Albanian folk songs.
Sample: "The brutal Serbian war machinery has blocked all the ways and corridors and even threatened with further liquidations and another massacre."
Kosova Daily Report
Political Line: Represents the "Republic of Kosovo."
Content: Until it was shut down March 24, published six to 15 daily war items from the Kosova Information Center, which is published by the Kosovo Republic's Ministry of Information. Archives back to 1997. Includes long reports on Kosova's economy and on the history of Serb "colonisation," plus photo essay of a bombed village.
Sample: "The Serbian shelling of the villages of [the] Podujeva area was of a lower intensity today morning, but an appalling situation prevails in the town of Podujeva and in the villages, local LDK sources in town told the KIC."
Media Centar, Pristina
Political Line: Daily news from the Serb government's press office in Pristina's Grand Hotel.
Content: Publishes a handful of news items a day, almost exclusively about the actions of "Albanian terrorists." Archives to Jan. 1. Links to a half-dozen 1998 Serb government press conferences, three dozen Yugoslav publications and another two dozen Yugoslav-related sites.
Sample: "This morning, around 8 AM, near Lebane village, Albanian terrorists shot from sniper rifles at the car 'Toyota,' Belgrade license plates, in which, a team of Russian journalists were returning from Kosovo and Metohija to Belgrade."
Borba English Daily
Political Line: Owned by the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
Content: Two dozen 300-word articles per day about the country. No archives or links.
Sample: "President of the Republic of Yugoslavia and Supreme Commander of the Yugoslav Armed Forces Slobodan Milosevic held a meeting with top state and military officials."
Political Line: Published by Serbia's Ministry of Information.
Content: Front page includes 30 or so reports from the last few days, usually announcements by ministries or coverage of Western pundits and politicians, such as Pat Buchanan, who oppose the NATO bombing. Special sections on "Terrorism in Kosovo," Croatian deathcamps and the "quasilegal" war crimes tribunal in The Hague. Another dozen links to outside media featuring NATO critics; archives scattered throughout.
Sample: "Ministry for Liaison with Serbs Living Outside Serbia appeal [to] the mothers of the NATO pilots who participate in the criminal attacks against the FR Yugoslavia to use their right of being the mothers and ask for their sons to be returned in the original bases because there is not a single sensible reason for them to unnecessarily die and become murders."
Warning: Can be incredibly slow-loading.
Flash News, Banja Luka
Political Line: Published under the banner of the nationalist diaspora organization Serb Unity Congress.
Content: A dozen or so brief news items per day from the capitol of Republika Srpska, datelined Banja Luka and Sarajevo. Daily archive to October 1998; links to a dozen Yugoslav publications.
Sample: "Two NATO airplanes were crashed down around 17:20 p.m. about 15 km South-West from Bijeljina in village Krcina, finds NNA "Flash" from eye-witnesses."
Serbian Unity Congress News
Political Line: Published by an organization, founded in 1990, "committed to ensuring the continuation of the Serbian heritage."
Content: Posts about one item a day, typically a letter of protest from an S.U.C. member or a Serb leader to a Western leader. Archives to October 1996. Links to a dozen news outlets, including non-government sources such as B92.
Sample: "The Serbian Unity Congress has been in the forefront of efforts to build a negotiated and durable peace in Kosovo and to bring about democratic reform in Serbia. These efforts will be severely compromised by the illegal bombing campaign. We call upon the President to call an immediate halt to this immoral, illegal and counterproductive action."
Common Dreams' News Center -- Crisis in Kosovo: US, NATO Attack
Political Line: Published by two-year-old site of "breaking news & views for progressive-thinking Americans."
Content: Links to roughly 15 breaking news items a day, culled from AP, Reuters, AFP and top U.S. newspapers. Also links to a half-dozen columns and editorials a day, usually critical of the NATO mission. Plus features an outstanding collection of links to related news sites, activist groups, background information and government agencies. A must-read for Kosovo junkies.
Federation of American Scientists -- Target Kosovo
Political Line: Published by successor organization to the Federation of Atomic Scientists, which was founded in 1945 by members of the Manhattan Project.
Content: Emphasis on the military hardware being used by NATO forces, analyses of Serb defense capabilities and the methods used by the Kosovo Liberation Army, all discussed using military jargon. Links to three dozen or so news sites, human rights organizations and government agencies.
Political Line: A Dutch-based organization, financed by private donations, the European Union and the Dutch government, that has provided material support to 17 different independent media outlets from the former Yugoslavia.
Content: Links to latest stories and background reports about the state of the media in the Balkans, much of it generated in-house and by the Institute for War & Peace Reporting (see site description, above). Archive of annual reports and its latest news about media in Romania, Montenegro, Serbia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia and Bosnia-Herceogovina. Also has an impressive links page.
Central Europe Online -- Kosovo Crisis
Political Line: Private Internet and publishing company based in Prague.
Content: Front page features a dozen or so breaking news items, mostly from Reuters; smaller column features another 15 or so breaking stories from news sources from around the Web. CEO editors provide 10 special background chronologies and biographies of key diplomats and politicians, plus reviews of Balkan-related books and links to a dozen news outlets. The rest of CEO includes detailed news and information about Russia and the rest of Central Europe.
Stratfor's Kosovo Crisis
Political Line: Stratfor is a Texas-based private company that "provides intelligence services" to organizations and individuals. "Stratfor is not in any way associated with any other intelligence organization, public or private."
Content: Front page includes a half-dozen rewritten wire reports, a handful of original columns, maps, reprinted commentary and the latest weather in the Balkans. Archives go back to March 24. There are also sections on background info, relevant treaties, timelines and histories of the countries involved, plus links to three dozen or so news outlets, government agencies and international organizations.
Emergency Struggle: U.S./NATO Bombings
Political Line: Published by ZNet, the online arm of the progressive Z Magazine, whose editor argues that "the current crisis is not as 'simple' as many that critics of violence, war, big power chauvinism, racism, sexism, global economic exploitation, domestic corporate gluttony, and other ills confront."
Content: A collection of essays that critically explore the motives and intricacies behind the bombing campaign and the political crisis in the former Yugoslavia.
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