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December 12, 1994
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 168
Media Analysis

True Lies

by Dejan Anastasijevic

The study analyzed 260 articles, the majority of which appeared in the daily newspapers ("Politika", "Borba", "Politika Ekspres" and "Vecernje Novosti"), while the newsweeklies naturally printed less articles about the subject during the same period - only 24. "Vreme" and "NIN" devoted much more attention to the media than did all of the other weeklies - they printed a total of 16 articles on this topic in four November issues. "Svet", "Telegraf", "Nada" and "Pravda" printed a total of six articles on the topic and therefore were not the object of separate analysis.

The largest number of articles were devoted to the cases of "Borba" (around 54 percent) and "NIN" (7.5 percent), relations between the government and journalists (9.2 percent) and journalism celebrations, awards and anniversaries (8.4 percent). The other stories were devoted to a wide range of themes: from Independent Television "Studio B" (6 percent) to trials of journalists and media technical working conditions. The articles can be divided into groups of neutral (dry facts, without opinions), balanced (containing the opinions of all opposing sides) and biased (those that favor one or the other side). Of the dailies, the most balanced articles can be found in "Borba" (54.6 percent) and "Politika" (37.8 percent). "Vecernje Novosti" most often printed biased (57.1 percent) and neutral (33.3 percent) articles about the media, while only every tenth articles can be considered balanced. The "balanced" category cannot even be applied to "Politika Ekspres" - the articles are either biased (62.5 percent) or without opinions. Neither "Vreme" nor "NIN" articles about the media are balanced: "Vreme" is biased in two-thirds of its articles, and as many as 85.7 percent of "NIN" articles about the media are biased, while the rest are neutral.

Zdenka Milivojevic, a researcher at "Argument" says that it is "important to mention that we did not verify the truthfulness of the information presented in 'neutral' articles. The 'biased' category should also be taken with a grain of salt." Ms. Milivojevic claims that a clearer picture can be gotten when the articles are analyzed within a ideological-political context. In such an analysis it is evident that the biased articles in "Borba", "Vreme" and "NIN" most often support defense of press freedoms (30 percent in "Borba", 27.3 percent in "Vreme" and 18.2 percent in "NIN") or criticize the government's treatment of the media ("Borba" - 43.75 percent, "Vreme" - 36.4 percent, "NIN" - 27.3 percent). On the other hand, biased articles in "Vecernje Novosti" regularly praise the government and the regime media and attack their colleagues at the independent media, while only every tenth article can be said to criticize the regime's behavior toward journalists, and this exclusively in relation to problems with permits to report on sessions of Parliament. "Politika Ekspres" does not dare even this much: almost one-fourth of articles about the media are dedicated to exalting the state media, one-fifth to extolling state policies and one-fifth to criticism of independent journalism, while the other thirty percent are non-ideological. As could be expected, in that respect "Politika" did better than "Politika Eskpres" or "Vecernje Novosti", but worse than "Borba": the largest number of articles are non-ideological (57.14 percent); 17 percent are dedicated to criticizing the independent media and 14 percent to criticism of the regime media. State policy regarding the information sector is openly praised in only 5.7 percent of articles and the same amount of room is given to defense of press freedoms.

"The one thing that somewhat surprised me was that the results of the analysis showed that, despite the fact that it was directly in conflict with the authorities, 'Borba' maintained a fantastic level of professionalism in its articles about the media", commented Ms. Milivojevic. Almost three-fourths of articles in "Borba" were written with the basic intention of informing readers and only one-fourth with the intention to convince them of the correctness of the editorial board's position. On the other hand, both independent and regime media show exceptional engagement: 77.7 percent of the articles in "Vreme" and 85.7 percent of those in "NIN" were "persuasive", while "Vecernje Novosti" and "Politika Ekspres" divide persuasion and pure information according to a formula of half-half. A little less persuasion and a little more information (not just when the media are concerned) would undoubtedly be a welcome change for both us and readers.

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