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Serbs Slowly Come to Terms with Srebrenica Massacre

Serbia's media gave extensive coverage this week to the commemoration of the mass murder of about 8,000 Muslim men and boys by Bosnian Serbs a decade ago at Srebrenica. The coverage may reflect a tentative willingness of Serbs to come to terms with what happened 10 years ago.

The memorial service in Srebrenica was on the front page of every Belgrade daily newspaper. Coverage focused particularly on the Serbian President Boris Tadic, who attended but did not speak.

Private Television B-92 broadcast the three-hour ceremony live, and foreign minister Vuk Draskovic participated in a televised dialogue with a station in Sarajevo.

A day later most papers, particularly those supporting nationalist parties, gave equally extensive coverage to a memorial service for several hundred Bosnian Serbs killed by Bosnian Muslims.

Publisher and media analyst Bratislav Grubacic believes the Serbian public is at the beginning of the process of coming to terms with the massacre at Srebrenica. What had been a wall of denial, he says, began to crack a month ago when Serbian television broadcast the video of a special Serbian police unit murdering six unarmed Muslims near Srebrenica.

"Psychologically speaking, people need some time to digest what really happened. It is just not that easy psychologically to accept that your nation did something that is really nasty," he said.

Surveys show that most Serbs do not believe 8,000 Muslims were killed by Serbs at Srebrenica.

Program Director Dusan Radulovic, of state-run Radio Belgrade, says after the shock of the video had diminished somewhat, the more nationalist media sought to balance Srebrenica by emphasizing the suffering of Bosnian Serbs. "Soon after that they started to present photos of Serbs who were killed. And they tried to reduce the damage, if I may say so," he said.

Mr. Radulovic believes more Serbs are coming to see that war crimes were committed in their name at Srebrenica.

Mr. Grubacic agrees. "Serbs are becoming, let us say, more sober after being drunk all these years of wars (and 10 years of Milosevic rule). And I think it is improving. The fact is that the government has the clear political will to cooperate with the Hague tribunal and send (the alleged perpetrators of Srebrenica) Mladic and Karadjic to the Hague, if they catch them here," he said.

Mr. Grubacic is convinced that there would be little public protest if the Bosnian-Serb commander at Srebrenica General Ratko Mladic, who is believed to be hiding in Serbia, were arrested.

General Mladic and the war time leader of the Bosnian Serbs, Radovan Karadzic, have both been indicted for war crimes. Ten years after the end of the conflict, the two men are still at large.