Unit 1012 Cover Photo

Unit 1012 Cover Photo

Sunday, April 23, 2017

NATO bombing of the Radio Television of Serbia headquarters (23 April 1999)

In  NATO attack on Serbian Radio Television these people were massacred: Dejan Marković (age: 39), Darko Stiomenovski (26),  Slaviša Stevanović (32), Slobodan Jontić (54), Ksenija Banković (28), Branislav Jovanović (50),Ivan Stukalo (34), , Dragan Tasić (31), Nebojša Stojanović (27), Siniša Medić (32), Tomislav Mitrović (61), Milan Joksimović (47), Jelica Munitlak (28),  Aleksandar Deletić (31), Dragorad Dragojević (27), Milovan Janković (59).
          Unit 1012 will remember and honor the 16 victims of NATO bombing of the Radio Television of Serbia headquarters every year on 23 April.

            We also feel that those victims and their families were treated very unfairly due to the ECHR when in 2002, Dragoljub Milanović, the general manager of RTS, was sentenced to 10 years in prison because he had not ordered the workers in the building to evacuate, despite knowing that the building could be bombed.

            In a similar scenario, how would you feel if the courts acquitted the arsonist who burned your house down killing your family members and they charge you for failing to evacuate your loved ones?

NATO bombing of the Radio Television of Serbia headquarters

The damaged headquarters of RTS
Belgrade, Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
44°48′41″N 20°28′12″E
April 24, 1999
02:06 am (CET)
Radio Television of Serbia
Attack type
Missile attack
Non-fatal injuries

The NATO bombing of the Radio Television of Serbia headquarters occurred on 23 April 1999, during the Kosovo War.


It formed part of NATO's aerial campaign against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, and severely damaged the Belgrade headquarters of Radio Television of Serbia (RTS). Other radio and electrical installations throughout the country were also attacked. Sixteen employees of RTS died when a single NATO missile hit the building. Many were trapped for days, only communicating over mobile phones. The station returned to the air 24 hours later from a secret location. NATO Headquarters justified the bombing with two arguments; firstly, that it was necessary "to disrupt and degrade the command, control and communications network" of the Yugoslav Armed Forces, and secondly, that the RTS headquarters was a dual-use object which "was making an important contribution to the propaganda war which orchestrated the campaign against the population of Kosovo". The British Broadcasting Corporation reported that the station was targeted because of its role in Belgrade's propaganda campaign. Tim Judah and others stated that RTS had been broadcasting Serb nationalist propaganda, which demonised ethnic minorities and legitimised Serb atrocities against them. A new building has since been built next to the bomb-damaged one, and a monument has been erected to those killed in the attack.

With the bombing of the Radio Television of Serbia headquarters, NATO recognized that media is a weapon during war. France was opposed to the attack; there was considerable disagreement between the United States and the French government regarding the legitimacy and legality of the bombing. Amnesty International stated that the NATO bombing was a war crime, and Noam Chomsky views it as an act of terrorism.

In 2002, the European Court of Human Rights threw out a case brought by six Yugoslav citizens against NATO. Dragoljub Milanović, general manager of Radio Television of Serbia, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for failing to evacuate the building. According to an Amnesty article published in 2009, nobody was held accountable for the attack itself, and no justice for the victims has been made.


While giving a speech at the Overseas Press Club sixtieth anniversary dinner, held on Thursday evening 22 April 1999 EST at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City, US envoy to Yugoslavia Richard Holbrooke reacted to the NATO's bombing of the RTS headquarters almost immediately after it took place: "Eason Jordan told me just before I came up here that while we've been dining tonight, the air strikes hit Serb TV and took out the Serb television, and at least for the time being they’re off the air. That is an enormously important event, if it is in fact as Eason reported it, and I believe everything CNN tells me. If, in fact, they're off the air even temporarily, as all of you know, one of the three key pillars, along with the security forces and the secret police, have been at least temporarily removed. And it is an enormously important and, I think, positive development."

Consequences and conclusions

A report conducted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) entitled "Final Report to the Prosecutor by the Committee Established to Review the NATO Bombing Campaign Against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia" said:

Insofar as the attack actually was aimed at disrupting the communications network, it was legally acceptable ... NATO’s targeting of the RTS building for propaganda purposes was an incidental (albeit complementary) aim of its primary goal of disabling the Serbian military command and control system and to destroy the nerve system and apparatus that keeps Milošević in power

In regards to civilian casualties, it further stated that though they were, "unfortunately high, they do not appear to be clearly disproportionate."

In the case Markovic v. Italy, the European Court of Human Rights found that the government of Italy had not violated human rights. However, in 2002, Dragoljub Milanović, the general manager of RTS, was sentenced to 10 years in prison because he had not ordered the workers in the building to evacuate, despite knowing that the building could be bombed.

Sian Jones, Balkans expert from Amnesty International stated the following about the attack:

The bombing of the headquarters of Serbian state radio and television was a deliberate attack on a civilian object and as such constitutes a war crime.

Human Rights Watch also condemned the attack, stating that:

Even if one could justify legal attacks on civilian radio and television, there does not appear to be any justification for attacking urban studios, as opposed to transmitters.

2011 apology statement

On 23 May 2011, Radio Television of Serbia (RTS) issued an official apology for the way their programming was misused for spreading propaganda and discrediting political opponents in the 1990s, and for the fact that their broadcasts had "hurt the feelings, moral integrity and dignity of the citizens of Serbia, humanist-oriented intellectuals, members of the political opposition, critically minded journalists, certain minorities in Serbia, minority religious groups in Serbia, as well as certain neighbouring peoples and states.".

The American news agency, the Associated Press, wrote:

The station blatantly spread Milosevic's nationalist propaganda, portraying Serbs as the victims of ethnic attacks in the former Yugoslavia, thus whipping up nationalism that led to wars. At the same time, the television accused the Serbian opposition of being foreign mercenaries and traitors who were working against the country's interests.

The propaganda was so intense that it led to anti-government protests in March 1991 in the capital, during which two people were killed in what was the first popular uprising against Milosevic's rule. It also prompted Nato in 1999 to declare the state TV a legitimate target. The RTS building was bombed during the air war that the alliance launched to stop Milosevic's onslaught against Kosovo Albanian separatists. Sixteen RTS employees died in the bombing.

Comparisons to Charlie Hebdo shooting

Linguist and political analyst Noam Chomsky views the NATO bombing as an act of terrorism. In an article published almost two weeks after the 2015 Charlie Hebdo shooting in Paris, he commented on what he sees as the hypocrisy shown by media and politicians in the West, which in general viewed the 1999 bombing as legitimate. "There were no demonstrations or cries of outrage, no chants of 'We are RTV' [...]", he noted, pointing out the vastly different reactions by alluding to the popularization of the Je suis Charlie slogan in the aftermath of the 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris. Chomsky also suggested that it would be informative to set up an inquiry on what values NATO actually "defended" when bombing the Radio Television of Serbia building, something he has analyzed more closely in his book A New Generation Draws the Line (2000).

Chomsky's article does not address whether or not he accepts that the TV station had been incorporated into the Command, Control and Communications network of the Yugoslav armed forces, which NATO originally stated as its argument for performing the bombing raid. Some of the relatives to the victims have condemned apologists of Slobodan Milošević and "local propagandists" for having misused Chomsky's comparisons to further their own agendas. One woman criticized former manager Dragoljub Milanović for saying "I am Charlie, I didn’t know they were going to bomb RTS", and described him as a "criminal who was representing himself as a victim". She also accused the government for not providing adequate documentation about details surrounding the incident.

In February 2015, President of Serbia Tomislav Nikolić gave Noam Chomsky the Sretenjski orden (sr) medal for his efforts.

This Tašmajdan park memorial to the victims of the April 23,1999 NATO bombing includes names, ages, and job descriptions of each person killed in the attack. At the bottom of the memorial there is a photo of the building taken just after the attack during rescue operations.
List of killed RTS workers
  • Aleksandar Deletić (30), cameraman
  • Branislav Jovanović (50), master technician
  • Darko Stoimenovski (25), visiting technician
  • Dejan Marković (39), security worker
  • Dragan Tasić (29), electrician
  • Dragorad Dragojević (27), security worker
  • Ivan Stukalo (33), technician
  • Jelica Munitlak (27), make-up artist
  • Ksenija Banković (27), vision mixer
  • Milan Joksimović (47), security worker
  • Milovan Janković (59), precision machinist
  • Nebojša Stojanović (26), master technician
  • Siniša Medić (32), production designer
  • Slaviša Stevanović (32), technician
  • Slobodan Jontić (54), director
  • Tomislav Mitrović (61), program director

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