Donated millions in private handsIzetbegovic's Media for the Good of the Bosniac Nation
FRI, 08 SEP 2000
Sarajevo, August 30, 2000 - The decision of the Independent Media Commission(IMC) to deny the Bosniac Television International (BRT) a long-term licence and to prohibit future broadcasting of its programmes would not have attracted much attention (because there is hardly a programme worse than that of BRT) had it not been passed rather clumsily and had it not directly concerned a TV station which is directly supported by the President of the ruling SDA, Alija Izetbegovic and had not this denial occurred during preparations for the forthcoming national general elections.
The IMC's main objection was that BRT had falsely presented itself as a private station while it is actually a public one, because it meets the requirements from the IMC's definitions for public TV stations: over one half of BRT donations came from a political party (SDA) and from a country which is not a member of the Peace Implementation Council (Qatar). Due to the fact that there is hardly any younger and smaller TV station than BRT, with whose name so many scandals are connected and against which so many criminal reports were filed, it is logical to ask why hadn't IMC dealt with the problem of BRT International earlier? IMC started the procedure for resolving the case of BRT only after High Representative dismissed Emin Skopljak (who is incidentally a close relative of Alija Izetbegovic) from the post of the Director of the Telecommunications Directorate for falsifying the documents of the disputable station.
In recent past, IMC had already reproached BRT for working without a licence since it did not furnish proof on the transfer of broadcasting rights from the non-existent TV Ljiljan, nor documentation proving its connection with the phantom TV Ljiljan, whose legal successor is BRT Int. Nevertheless, IMC granted BRT a temporary working licence.
However, three months after temporary licence was issued, more precisely, in the beginning of July 1999, the IMC Licence Department asked BRT for additional information - namely, according to information on its sources of finance it could be concluded that it was closely connected with SDA and its leader, Alija Izetbegovic, as well as countries outside the group of donor countries from the Peace Implementation Council! Actually, the Report on the inflow of donations clearly states that Alija Izetbegovic had donated DM 1 million to BRT, while IMC received information that SDA and Qatar donations to this station reached the figure of DM 2,047,492!
Naturally, BRT claims that IMC made a mistake by refusing to grant it a permanent broadcasting licence and that, ultimately, it was all the same to its management whether this station would be considered a private or a public TV house. However, according to IMC this is not a valid argument.
The BRT management is defending itself persistently, but without any arguments, even humorously claiming that it had not received any donations from the SDA President, that problems of property, profit and donations have emerged as a consequence of legal proceedings going on between the first management team of this TV house and the current one, etc. Since attack is the best form of defence, management of this RTV, headed by the controversial SDA ideologist, Dzemaludin Latic, and the former announcer of RTV Sarajevo, Mithat Paravlic, accused IMC as being responsible that BRT had declared itself a private television. Allegedly, it was IMC that had sent it a licence application form for "private stations" and not the one for "public TV houses". The BRT people repeatedly stated that it was all the same to them whether they were a public or private television station!
The additional complication is that the Directorate and BRT Management Board claim that the entire property of this organisation belongs to "Vakuf" ("Vakuf" is the Foundation for Material Support to Moslems and Promotion of Religious Objectives of the Islamic Community" – definition from the Dictionary of Foreign Words by M.Filipovic, 1975) and therefore, cannot be privatised nor sold! Miraculously, the representative of this vakuf (non-existent legal status according to valid B&H legislation) is none else but Alija Izetbegovic.
However, since, probably to the great dissatisfaction of the Vakuf's President, Islamic law is neither official nor binding in B&H, IMC answered that "vakuf has nothing to do with us and our rules".
Also, it is not all the same whether a station is private or public, starting from the programme it broadcasts, especially in these pre-election times, up to the ways in which it ensures its funds.
Since, again thanks to international mediators in B&H, SDA's influence on state RTV has recently significantly decreased, BRT was its last hope. However, High Representative Petritsch obviously wanted to put the chaotic B&H media scene in order and after the Herzegovinian EROTEL stopped working and several people were thrown out from the state TV, obviously BRT's turn came. For example, until now, OHR did not deny claims of some B&H media that the High Representative had recently asked IMC what was its purpose if it was unable to shut down BRT which was involved in numerous fraudulent dealings?
However, according to the management team of this house, neither the denial of a permanent licence nor its appeal against the decision, nor the final confirmation of IMC's negative answer mean that BRT will cease to exist. Sakib Musabasic, Assistant Director of Production, said that if nothing else worked, BRT would broadcast its programmes via satellite because IMC was in charge of regulating the work of only earth transmitters.
All the confusion with the "international media infant" whose programme is, to put it mildly, below every professional level, contributed to only one thing: to forget the real (political) target of the project of Bosniac Television and how much money had been invested in it. For example, according to Alija Izetbegovic, Member of the B&H Presidency, the project is valuable and was worth investing DM 2,128,702 in equipment, DM 829,245 in the renovation of premises and additional DM 447,745 in cash, that the News and Publishing House "Ljiljan" should pay to the BRT account, to get "BRT Int. started for the good of the Bosniac nation in B&H". Incidentally, the figure that should have helped dream about the Bosniac TV come true, reached the amazing DM 4 million already by the end of 1997!
The result of so much invested money are hours and hours of nonsensical and inarticulate programme, some religious lessons and paid films "made in Iran" and, naturally - as it always happens with the ruling national oligarchies - legal proceedings of old and new TV directors over the equipment. Namely, local public remembers well the last year's cowboy actions that Chairman of the Management Board Latic and Director Paravlic had organised in order to take away valuable equipment from the former BRT Director Mahir Ziska, who was unwilling to surrender it, etc.
After the expiry of the appeal term in September, IMC will give its final word on the destiny of Bosniac Television, but it seems that it can be already predicted. What should be a lesson - not only to the Bosniac people, in whose name million have changed hands, but also to everyone else as "the principle is the same and everything else are only nuances" – is that the money which came to B&H as aid to entities, ended up in the hands of a small number of God's and Allah's representatives. Naturally, blasphemous ones.
As long as there are such donations for Bosniacs which end up in the SDA pockets, BRT will broadcast even via satellite if need be. However, bearing in mind the pace at which the influence of this party in B&H is decreasing and how many donators have turned their backs to their corrupted friends in B&H authorities, it is highly unlikely that this will last long. It will be interesting to see what will Izetbegovic's project "for the good of the Bosniac people" turn into by that time. Almost as interesting as for SDA itself.