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June 13, 1998
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 349
Sign of the times

Lifting the curtains

by ilip Svarm

erbian newspapers have been writing for months that not calling a session of the National Security Council could have grave consequences. They believe it is wrong for the army to get involved in a dirty little war and abuse its power, splitting the Yugoslav federation into two. Various non-regime experts have tried to explain that the regime's ill-judged Kosovo policy will have disastrous consequences. What can be said about comments on the arrogant behaviour of the ruling family and its servants? Does Milosevic read all these lines? Probably not, he doesn't have the time because he works so hard. However, his cabinet definitely includes a service made of a few experienced men who digest all this and serve it to him with his morning coffee. What are his comments like? Is he bored, or does he get enraged when his family is criticized?

An experienced editor said he was willing to pay any price for the ability to read Milosevic's mind for only ten minutes. The newspapers warned that the regime's unthoughtful acts would have terrible consequences. However, Milosevic showed admirable persistence and "refused to bow", which is why this country's misfortune was at times even bigger than predicted by many a pessimist. However, unlike the state he heads, Milosevic managed to come out of every crisis stronger and more powerful. It is therefore not surprising that only a few people still read the newspapers and believe what they say. You can write what you like, state all the facts, but the effect is zero.

The word is that Milosevic reads very carefully all the reports submitted to him by the Service. They say that these reports, with headlines such as "Classified" and "Top Secret", are essentially not different from what independent media write. The reports reveal the real spirit and morale of police forces deployed in Kosovo, the amount of Serbian losses making firms, and how much money there is in foreign accounts in Cyprus. They also keep track of the activities of Serbia's ministers and their sons, politicians calling themselves opposition and their dreams as well as many human shortcomings at all levels.

Apart from their foundation, these police-fashioned reports have another advantage over the media. Depending on what he has read, Milosevic usually sends a "message" and reads about the results of his decision in the next morning's report.

Milosevic knows that actual state of affairs better than anybody else. The question is, where do the media stand in all this? It is apparent that the sheer amount of facts and arguments stated by the media in the past few months have reached a critical point, for even the president's most loyal Service is unable to conceal them. We only have to wait and see whether the sound of NATO aircraft, a possible economic collapse, the disintegration of political life and all other forms of life will be reason for concern.

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