I finally got to watching Years Eaten by Lions, a 2010 documentary by Boro Kontic, a prominent Bosnian journalist. If you ever wondered what happened with journalists who paddled hatred and warmongering in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, this film can enlighten you.

Kontic’s subject matter weren’t those hundreds of journalists whose reporting was simply on message all the time on major issues concerning their ethnic camp. Most are still in similar positions, and when core ethnic matters come to the agenda, they do pretty much the same as they always did, though now in a quieter manner. And that’s not really big deal for anyone anymore—after all, very few people in any walk of life sang off key on key ethnic issues, so you can possibly make a tongue-in-cheek argument that such journalists, the vast majority, accurately reflected prevailing sentiments in their societies, a key task of good journalism.

Kontic sought out those reporters and editors who did a bit more than that. He, for example, traced down those whose reports were key parts of specific instances of ethnic pogroms, who sometimes literally pointed their finger at individuals or local groups of people who were to be chased out of their town or village, imprisoned, beaten, killed. Or he interviewed some of those whose pieces were simply spectacular lies obviously intended to incite violence.

Only one of those who Kontic interviewed seems to have begun asking some hard questions of himself. Others are either defiant or seem to feel blissfully blameless. As to what exactly they do today, nearly all are doing very well. Two run an award-winning local theatre. One has become a priest. Others are still in the media, with some now teaching journalism at local universities.

Oh, yes, you may wonder what those lions are doing in the film title. That’s the lions from the Sarajevo zoo, who according to a Bosnian Serb TV report from 1992 ate Serb children fed to them by the enemy. When the reporter, faking disbelief,  asked a soldier on the frontline if this was true, she got what she wanted: “That has been verified. It should be true 100 percent,” the soldier said reassuringly.

Tihomir Loza

Tihomir Loza is deputy director of Transitions Online. Email: tihomir.loza@tol.org

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