NATO killed 16 Serbia’s RTS TV staff “as legitimate target” 20 years ago

Photo: N1

BELGRADE, 24.04.2019. – On April 23, 1999, just after 2 am, NATO bombs hit the heart of the state RTS television, killing 16 people on duty after the Alliance decided that a media house was the legitimate military target for the first time.

The families of the murdered RTS employees still ask – why it had to happen, blaming both NATO and the then Serbia’s authorities. NATO for killing them, the authorities for not moving them out of the main RTS building.

The speculations of a possible bombing of the RTS circulated days before it happened. The then Information Minister and the current President of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic used to take foreign and local reporters to the RTS for several nights ahead of bombing to show defiance.

The then RTS director Dragoljub Milanovic was almost lynched after late Serbia’s strongman Slobodan Milosevic was dethroned in 2000, and two years later Milanovic was sentenced to 10 years in jail for leaving the employees at the main building though many, including foreign reporters with sources within NATO, were saying the bombing was inevitable.

Human Rights Watch said in 2000 that there was no excuse for NATO action, but the Alliance said the attack was justified because of the RTS, as they called it, inflammatory propaganda.

Actually, the bombs fell days after an RTS journalist told NATO that “we are here,” adding the exact address of the building which was later hit.

The Hague special commission which investigated the bombing did not suggest to the prosecutors to launch criminal proceedings.

RTS was back on the air some six hours after the bombing from an alternative location.

On Monday, Serbia’s Prime Minister Ana Brnabic described the attack “a barbaric act which the countries talking about freedom of the media today should be ashamed of.”

„Twenty years ago, many of the people lecturing us about freedom of the media (today), ruthlessly launched missiles against one of the media from a safe distance,“ she said adding: „Unfortunately the people who ordered the bombing of the RTS building will never be brought to trial“.

Near the reconstructed RTS main building at the Tasmajdan Park, there is a monument with the inscription “WHY?” and the names of all killed in the attack. Their families, friends and colleagues gather every April 23 to lay flowers in memory of media people who died at their workplace.

N1, Julijana Mojsilovic, Belgrade, 24/04/2019

N1, Julijana Mojsilovic, Belgrade, 24/04/2019