Post Reporters Reporting ONLY on Albanians
Editor's Note: Fox News reported on the vandalization of the Devic Monastery and the sexual assault on a young Nun by rampaging KLA soldiers. However, the Washington Post, with seven reporters in the neighborhood only reported on "A Landscape of Ruin" as it related to the KLA losses and the losses of property in KLA villages. One of our readers questioned the "reporting" of the Washington Post:
June 19, 1999
The Washington Post E.R. Shipp Ombudsman
Dear Ms. Shipp,
Early last week a team of seven Post reporters traveled across Kosovo "to assess the breadth of the destruction" there. They wrote a story about atrocities related to them by ethnic Albanians, the only subjects interviewed. They visited seven towns and villages, some in areas not yet reached by KFOR troops. Their story, "A Landscape of Ruin," was published on the front page of the June 16th Washington Post.
Their report from KFOR-less Srbica was about ethnic Albanians on the road to homes elsewhere and focused on the death of a KLA fighter, which they were told occurred earlier that day at the hands of Serbian troops.
Five miles from Srbica is the Devic Monastery. When French KFOR troops arrived there, they found it had been vandalized and its monks and nuns terrorized by the KLA (CNN, KLA rebels accused of vandalizing Serb monastery, June 17, 1999). A young nun, forced to strip, was assaulted. The KLA were there for four days, from Sunday to Wednesday. The Washington Post team was in Srbica on Tuesday.
If they were looking for atrocity stories, they could have reported one first hand.Why Didn't They Go to Devic? The Devic Monastery is not obscure to western reporters. Through the NATO bombing campaign it was the subject of several stories because its nuns were frequently harassed by the KLA. It was also no secret there was grave concern for Serbian Orthodox monasteries at the time of the Post team's excursion. A ham radio operator began transmitting urgent messages from the Archbishop of Kosovo, in Prizren, on Sunday night. About Devic, "there is no information," the message sent Monday night read. These messages were posted to the Internet and directly to news organizations.
In fact, one of the Tuesday team's members, Daniel Williams, wrote a separate story about Srbica, this one appearing on Page A24 of the June 16 Post: "In Light of Defeat, Tide Changes for Many Serbs Civilians Face Fear, Terrorism in Kosovo." The buried Srbica story is not about Serbs attacking ethnic Albanians, but about "terrorized Serbs" fleeing from the KLA. "A trip to Devic? Remnants of the police force say, 'No one can guarantee your safety,'" Mr. Williams wrote.
As a careful reader, I am confused. The Post's reporters boldly struck out to do a photoforensic investigation of atrocities against ethnic Albanians, but feared to tread near a Serbian monastery? There were still armed Serbian police in the area who knew the situation around Devic was dangerous, but were not protecting the monastery? Was the Post teamed really warned off Devic by Serbian police, or by the KLA?An Outrageous Question? That I would doubt the Post's reporting on so simple a fact -- were they talking to Serbian police or the KLA? -- is based on what I know of your past coverage of Kosovo.
The Tuesday team included R. Jeffrey Smith, a relatively old Kosovo hand. He spent a good part of the NATO war reporting from KLA camps in Albania, and before that was inside Kosovo mis-reporting the news. For example:
The Post story "2 Dead After Rampage by Serb Troops in Disguise" (February 28, 1999, Page A24) claimed that Yugoslav troops disguised themselves in KLA uniforms, entered a village called Randobrava and went on a "two-hour shooting rampage." They met no resistance, Mr. Smith and Peter Finn reported, "because the Kosovo Liberation Army had no checkpoints or positions in the town." Mr. Smith and Mr. Finn wrote their story a day after the incident.Julius Strauss of The Telegraph (UK) and OSCE monitors were there on the day of the incident. Mr. Strauss quoted a monitor: "There were more than 100 KLA soldiers there, all kitted up and ready to go and only about 15 Serbs." CNN carried a similar report. The KLA's own news service, the Kosovapress, reported, "in the entrance of this village, these [Serbian] forces faced with UCK [KLA] units and a battle took place." So, the KLA were in town and there was a battle. Not one other news organization mentioned that the Yugoslav troops were disguised in KLA uniforms.
At best Mr. Smith and Mr. Finn passed off the lies of others, at worst they lied themselves.
At the time I sent a letter to the editor of the Washington Post about this. Neither my letter nor a correction to the story were published.
Please Investigate Regarding Devic, I do not know if the Post's editors were chagrined to learn its reporters had missed a major story five miles away, or the opportunity to assist a group of human beings under attack, but I know the Post didn't bother to report the incident at all once it came to light. The Post did not even bother to print the Associated Press story which mentioned the Devic attack (AP, Serb Monastery Protects All Peoples, Ellen Knickmeyer, June 17, 1999).
I ask that the Post investigate its reporting on June 15th. Who were your reporters' guides and interpretors? Why didn't they go to the Devic Monastery while they were in Srbica? And why didn't the Post ever publish reports on what happened at Devic?
I also ask that you examine the Post's entire coverage of the Kosovo crisis and war.You will find the omission of facts and entire stories, and the use of single, anonymous sources to manufacture front-page news. I believe the Post was and is biased in informing its readers about a situation of tragic and critical consequences.
While you are considering this request, I will continue to look into the Post's Kosovo coverage myself.