Disinform and Entertain until We’re out of Our Brains

Disinform and Entertain until We’re out of Our Brains
All the elements of classic propaganda, spin, and intentional disinformation of the public through the media were present in these media reports
The media hasn’t been accountable to the public for quite some time, not to mention that they have neglected their function as government watchdogs.
Translation to English: Aleksandar Brezar
The seventh great power, also known as the fourth estate, has been reduced to a tool of the political and business elites for the creation and modelling of public opinion so it will passively accept the status quo, legitimize it, and thus reproduce the growing division between those who rule and those who are ruled.
The role of the media in the protests
Therefore, the “behavior” of the media and the manner in which the protests in cities across BiH were reported shouldn’t come as a surprise. Aldin Arnautović wrote a clear and detailed text for the media.ba portal about the “brutal media propaganda that the people in BiH were subjected to”. The protests—a legitimate, purely democratic way of expressing civil disobedience—were represented in the Bosnian-Herzegovinian media as an act of vandalism conducted by “hooligans, thieves and terrorists” with the purpose of devastation, destruction, torching, and demonstrating essential vandalism (“Policeman Injured,” “Shopping Mall Destroyed,” “Hundreds Injured, Buildings Set on Fire, The National Archive of BiH Burned to the Ground”) accompanied by the inevitable use of “banned” substances (“Drugs Seized During Protests” – it was later clarified that this didn’t occur at the site of protests, but at a different location, Ilidža, some 10 kilometers away), all the while instilling a sense of fear and endangerment by others (other ethnicities, entities, football fans – “Bosnian Flag Set Ablaze by Fans of Slavija from East Sarajevo”, threats against the “stability of the Republika Srpska due to the overflow of protests”). All the elements of classic propaganda, spin, and intentional disinformation of the public through the media were present in these media reports.
Under such circumstances, any attempts at disproving the stories (including the story about drug seizures at the protest) lose their strength because the primary communication function has been achieved: people were shocked and questioning their reaction to the protests, often withholding support as a result. 
Standing up to hegemonic discourse
All protests eventually lead to divisions within the public sphere. Usually this results in antagonistic and mutually exclusive public discourses, where we are faced with a division between those who are protesting (citizens, disgruntled workers, youth, the underprivileged, etc.) and those who are being protested against (the state apparatus identified as administrations, assemblies, presidents, political parties, and elites that are a part of the ruling establishment).
Serbia during the 1990s is an example where one could clearly differentiate between media in the service of the regime (meaning pro-Milošević), the opposition (working together or in partnership with the political leaders of the opposition), and the independent media (who, like the opposition media, were against the regime, but were independent of any center of political power and functioned mostly with the help of donations). An example of an independent media outlet during the 1990s is Radio B92. 
This classification, however, cannot be applied to media in BiH today. In comparison to other countries in the region, there are many public media outlets in BiH (3 public broadcasting services with 7 channels, 12 public local TV stations, and 67 public radio stations) that are only tentatively regime-dependent, but only due to the nature of the political system in which all major political parties participate in the government. Likewise, media that tries to be oppositional or alternative are often called “civic,” although they too work for the agenda of a particular party, or in line with a certain political ideology. According to the imposed rules of public political and academic discourse in BiH, everything that is not ethnic or ethno-national is civic, which is a fairly narrow and exclusive definition of this category.
Independent media are reduced to short-term donation-based projects which were commercialized and thus have abandoned their original plans and envisioned roles. TV OBN is an example of this. 
Is there a “virtual” alternative?
As a result, only social networks and online media outlets offer any kind of an alternative, but their power and their actual influence on social changes is questionable. For example, the 2013 JMBG protest showed how social media can play a key role in the organization of protests through rapid dissemination of information and mobilization. However, this event also shows that the effects of such incitements to express dissatisfaction are short-term, and that the “weak” links created by social media between its users can be decidedly defeated by the “strong” social links primarily based on ethnic, national, religious, territorial, and to a lesser extent, class affiliation.
Two fresh examples of the still “weak” effect of social networks and media in general can be seen in Croatia and Serbia. In Croatia, social network users, aided by the majority of the old media, were exceptionally active shortly before the 2013 referendum that defined marriage. The campaign against defining marriage as a union exclusively between a man and a woman was largely spearheaded in the virtual realm. The same can be said of the “We Have Had Enough – Restart” campaign by the former Serbian minister of economy, Saša Radulović, which was one of the cheapest because it was based exclusively on social networks. In the Croatian case, 67 percent of those who voted chose the proposed, exclusivist definition of marriage, while 33 percent were against. Commenting the outcome of the referendum, the editor of the website “6YKA” Aleksandar Trifunović said that “the fact that the winning option in the referendum in Croatia didn't need the 'support' of almost any Croatian media outlets for a convincing win, paints a different picture about the debatable platitude about an allegedly large influence of media on the development of public opinion in post-Yugoslav societies."  On the other side of the border, Radulović’s ballot was supported by 2.1 percent of those who voted (which was significantly below the electoral threshold of 5 percent).
The fact that online media outlets and platforms enable decentralized communication, where they cannot be controlled from a singular center and where one cannot impose certain views or values, is positive for communication in general. However, there is another angle to this story: both sides, those protesting and those being protested against, use social networks. The average person, exposed to a deluge of information and untrained in the critical analysis of media messages, is led to misconception and confusion.
There is another form or platform of communication which unites the two aforementioned approaches (traditional communication and communication through social networks): the so-called independent communication through citizen-run newsletters. The latest example is “The Voice of Freedom,” published by the Plenum of the Citizens of Sarajevo, which is defined as an “informal, free street newsletter.” 
Security over solidarity
Media in BiH mostly serve as partisan mouthpieces, as an extension of particular interest groups (including politicians and businessmen), as short-term political projects, and very rarely do they act independently of politics and interest groups. In that balance of power, journalists are the weakest link, followed by editors, who are under the influence of owners, while the owners are often influenced by the political situation, on the basis of which they determine the editorial policy of their media outlet. The dependence of journalists on owners and editors is established and strengthened by their poor financial situation and the fact that they are underpaid so journalists are forced to “sell” their freedom and honor.
Given the situation that the journalists themselves share the social and economic hardships of the average citizen of BiH, the question arises: Where is the solidarity then? Many have exchanged solidarity for security and miserable, often late wages. There are few journalists in BiH or the region who have remained true to the ethical imperatives of the profession. As my colleague Belma Bećirbašić wrote, “every journalist who saw investigative and critical journalism as a potential weapon for unmasking of the only reality we have known—injustice, inequality, poverty and nationalism—saw post-war BiH as a guerilla cornucopia.”  However, only a few have managed to survive while struggling against poor working conditions, miserable wages, threats, labeling, and lawsuits. Thus, to echo Belma, on February 8, 2014, professional journalism said “good night” to its constant companions—professionalism and ethics.
(Un)importance of media
Media, traditionally defined as channels of communication and thought to be an influential, and sometimes even crucial factor in shaping public opinion, as seen on the example of the protests in BiH, has no crucial effect on generating energy for protests or in the dissipation of this energy. When it comes to protests, communication is never exclusively carried out by traditional media outlets (media outlets that are institutionalized and subject to the influence of one decision-making center, and that communicate exclusively unidirectionally, with a guarded and often “filtered” relationship towards the voices of the “citizens”) and at times their contribution is minimal. They are, however, an ideal tool for spreading propaganda, for a continuous repetition of an ideological or political mantra that suits the powers that control them (which can sometimes be the core and the initial group that leads the protests). As a result, media institutions are now rarely trusted or not trusted at all, while citizens tend to place their trust in those channels of communication where they have a clear view of the entire process of communication, without the intervention of a “third factor”. This always was and always will be informal or face-to-face communication.
Authors of the photos: Azra Šahinović, Eldar Kobšslić, Ajla Salkić, Jasmina Kudumović, Šejla Bratić, Eldar Kobašlić. Special thanx to Ivan Hrkaš.
Media Integrity