Channel surfing in Bosnia can be an unsettling experience. Switch on your television set in Sarajevo and each turn of the dial brings with it a new world view, where the ruling party is the hero, and objectivity is absent.
"If you have three separate broadcasts run by three nationalist parties, that's not media pluralism, even if the Western diplomats would like to say it is," says media analyst Michael Montgomery of the Institute for War and Peace Reporting. "Each broadcaster is using nationalist messages to varying degrees and polarizing the debate."
TV-Srpska, which Mr. Montgomery describes as "one long-running violation of the Dayton accords," broadcasts pictures of indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic while promoting his Serbian Democratic Party, which calls for a partition of Bosnia. At Croat-controlled Mostar TV, racist incitements are common, when it isn't preaching the virtues of the nationalist Croatian Democratic Community. Observers say, however, that Sarajevo's TV Bosnia-Herzegovina has made a good effort at objectivity.
The international community intended to solve these problems through its $11-million Independent Television Network, which would provide balanced election coverage to encourage mutual understanding. But the station only began "experimental" broadcasts last Saturday. "They started too late to have any effect on these elections," says Boro Kontic of the Soros Media Center.