DAILY CATHOLIC TUESDAY April 27, 1999 vol. 10, no. 82
NEWS & VIEWS
PAPAL BLACKOUT ON KOSOVO
Cries for Peace Nowhere to be found in Mainstream Media
ROME, APR 25 (ZENIT).- If someone, 50 years from now, were to read today's headlines in the major newspapers and wire services, and review the daily newscasts of the principal TV networks, they could easily come to the conclusion that, during the war in Kosovo, Pope John Paul II failed to speak out about the atrocities committed by the Serbs and never denounced the NATO bombings.
This is the claim of Antonio Gaspari, author, journalist and expert on Vatican affairs for more than a decade.
"It's uncanny. Not a day goes by that the Pope doesn't speak out in some way against the use of violence in the conflict in Kosovo. For the past month, the L'Osservatore Romano [Vatican Newspaper] has carried heart-wrenching front page appeals to stop the carnage on both sides. And yet, not a word of all this seems to filter through to the international press."
Gaspari, who has just published a book on Pius XII and his defense of the Jews during WWII, highlighting the thousands of Jewish refugees hidden in convents and religious houses by explicit order of the Pope, says it is ironic that history seems to be repeating itself.
"Just as Pius XII was one of the few voices -- if not the only one -- who dared to plead for peace while all the belligerent nations, including their media, called for the heightened escalation of the war machine, today John Paul II is one of the few world leaders who has had the courage to proclaim that 'violence is not the solution,' that 'everything is gained by peace, nothing is gained by war.' "
Gaspari asks: "Where are all the correspondents now who flocked to Cuba to report on the Pope's trip to the island? The same ones who spoke about the importance that must be given to John Paul's opinion in world affairs. The Pope's calls for peace aren't politically correct. Since they don't like what the Pope is saying -- essentially, stop the bombing -- they simple ignore it. There is an 'unspoken veto' being exercised against any news that comes out of the Vatican about the Kosovo war. Now, how can you call that objective journalism?"
He points out that, while it's true that the media of several European countries such as Italy, Spain and France have given space to some of the Pope's interventions -- especially the trip of Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran to Belgrade -- it has usually been in a watered-down way and avoiding the more forceful statements against violence.
Especially in the English-speaking media, there has been a virtual blackout of the constant effort of the Vatican's call for peace and numerous efforts to mediate in the conflict.
"It's interesting to note that, during this same period, they have reported on canonizations and Holy Week ceremonies, but made no mention of the forceful pronouncements of the Pope against military intervention and in favor of dialogue."
All Aboard! The Pope is not the only one who has been ignored or criticized for not "toeing the line." In fact, even the BBC has had to energetically defend its World Affairs Editor, John Simpson, serving as war correspondent in Belgrade, of accusations from the British government of being partial to the Serbs or, at least simplistic in his reporting.
In particular, interviews by Simpson with Serb civilians who claimed that NATO bombings had actually strengthened their support for president Milosevic, recently came under attack by unidentified government sources, "The Times" reported.
The BBC was quick to respond. Richard Ayre, Deputy Chief Executive of BBC News, defended Simpson saying: "It is important that audiences in Britain are given a true account of the public mood in Belgrade, not simply an account of what the NATO governments might prefer to hear."
Simpson sustains that he was simply reporting the truth when he affirmed that the NATO bombings have done nothing more than unite previously unconcerned Serbs behind their president, Slobodan Milosevic, because of the rampant destruction and, in their view, unjustifiable, targeting of "civilian" targets throughout their nation.
"In this modern pluralistic society in which we live today," affirmed Gaspari, "everyone is entitled to form his own opinion about world affairs. But that's only possible if we, as journalists, tell all the sides of the story and not just what reigning 'public opinion,' -- or even less -- what our governments, want them to hear."
Like the disc jockey who was recently fired by a Christian radio station in California for playing the Pope's new CD "Abba Pater" because the words were in a foreign language -- Latin to be precise --, mainstream media also seems to have carried out a very effective boycott of John Paul II's constant pleas to stop the violence and seek peace through other means.
Commenting the reasons why the station justified his client's dismissal,
the disc jockey's lawyer later told reporters: "They were worried about the
content because they couldn't understand it. But it's the Pope!" It seems
that they aren't the only ones who want to silence the Pope's voice.
Articles provided through Catholic World News and Church News at Noticias Eclesiales. Both CWN and NE are not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provides this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.
NEWS & VIEWS