Editorial Mirror: Let’s Take a Look at Who We Are and What We’re Doing

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On the 24th of May I published excerpts of a conversation with the Municipal President’s spokesman as part of an article covering a strike at the old Mitrovica high school, in which questions were asked as to the Municipal President’s potential involvement in an armed attack against the President of the Strike Board and teacher at that school. After our conversation, I explained to him (the spokesman) what exactly I would write in the run-up to the article’s publication and he told me “feel free, I stand behind every word.”

Shortly after the story found itself online, I received a series of complaints from the spokesman: “I stand behind every word I said but it came off as tendentious” and “I was speaking with you informally for parts of the conversation”, “it’s not acceptable that you taped the conversation then published the entire transcript”, “I didn’t want to comment on that without relevant reports and you can quote me on that in a single sentence without the need for your dramatizations…”

I’m a Journalist.  I don’t have informal conversations except when it is specifically requested by an interviewee, something that generally only happens when I need additional information in order to better understand a certain topic. I take notes and convey words meticulously.

I went to bed a bit early the other night after many hours of work and even more stress-filled days. I awoke that morning certain that the circles had disappeared from around my eyes and that they had returned to their usual rested glow.

The person staring back at me in the mirror frightened me; bags underbloodshot eyes and swollen skin and eyelids.   I suppose I’m still 47 and not 27.

Even if people may not like what they see they should still take a look in the mirror more often, even if they’re as shocked as I was this morning, their own reflection will still anchor them in reality and remind them of their faults and force them to confront their limitations.  It motivates them to try harder to work on themselves and to overcome obstacles.

A series of reports and communications from Serbian politicians and institutions began arriving at the addresses of editorial staff of Serbian media outlets during the electoral campaign leading up to the snap parliamentary elections in the “Republic” of Kosovo.  An onslaught of ugly, unkind and dangerous words used to discredit and slander individuals. A collective and institutional isolation has been carried out and a public target has been drawn on their foreheads.

I’m an editor, a gatekeeper if you will. My job is to inform the public and to defend the public space with truth, objectivity and civility. While politicians, representatives of institutions and other public figures may be obligated to inform the public through the media without any kind of selectivity, editors decide what to publish and what not to publish in line with their own conscious, ethics, professional skills and knowledge.

I would have never imagined, sitting in the faculty club or the university library, that I would ever, even in my wildest dreams, find myself publishing a statement or a report for the media that uses words such as: “political poodle”, “louse”, “mite”, “pests”, “parasites”, “traitor”, “monster”, “Aco the siptar”, “cowardly”, “wretched and useless man”, “unfortunately they call themselves Serbs”, “puny political parties”, “we’re no crows, we’re Serbian falcons and we know which egg is rotten”, “iron nails and little weaklings, Aleksandar Jаblanovic is the iron nail in the stone of the north”; “our women also need some balls”….

I looked out of my window as I sat at my desk this morning and gazed at the bullets holes that were made exactly two years ago today.  Instead of seeing a developed society I see a destructive mentality. Those bullets are our mirrors.

Just like the words: “political poodle”, “louse”, “mite”, “pests”, “parasites”, “traitor”, “monster”, “Aco the siptar”, “cowardly”, “wretched and useless man”, “unfortunately they call themselves Serbs”, “puny political parties”, “we’re no crows, we’re Serbian falcons and we know which egg is rotten”,  “iron nails and little weaklings, Aleksandar Jаblanovic is the iron nail in the stone of the north”; “our women also need some balls”…

Dear readers, do you like the reflection you see in the mirror?  Do we like ourselves? Those of us who consider ourselves to be “respectable citizens” , “the best and the brightest political representatives”, “honorable, responsible people, parents, brothers, sisters and friends” , “mayors”, “board members”, “members of parliaments”, “pedagogues”, “lecturers”, “doctors”, “traders, victimized Serbs, big Serbs, local-patriots?”

I’m not sure what the answer is but I am certain of my own stance.  I endure an insurmountable personal and professional defeat every time I’m forced to type out those words coming from those people who should be making our lives better through their skill and advocacy but instead we see: “political poodle”, “louse”, “mite”, “pests”, “parasites”, “traitor”, “monster”, “Aco the siptar”, “cowardly”, “wretched and useless man”, “unfortunately they call themselves Serbs”, “puny political parties”, “we’re no crows, we’re Serbian falcons and we know which egg is rotten”, “iron nails and little weaklings, Aleksandar Jаblanovic is the iron nail in the stone of the north”; “our women also need some balls”…

Local elections are approaching in the “Republic” of Kosovo. The wave of Serbian patriotism that will accompany these local elections will flood us with even more dirt, even more of these kinds of words and perhaps even bullets as well; the receding tsunami of brutality will leave much destruction in its wake.

Despite the fact that, In a more normal setting, any statement that so negates the beauty and the dignity of the Serbian language would easily end up in my computer’s “rubbish bin,” I will continue to defy that editorial maxim that states: “Do not publish propagandistic texts and statements that contain discrediting material on individuals and groups, hate speech and/or discriminatory language on any basis.”

That will be my editorial mirror, so we can take a long look at who we are and what we’re doing. Perhaps we can examine our own faults and see our limitations; perhaps our reflection will motivate us to try a bit harder.

Tatjana Lazarević is editor-in-chief of Kosovo Sever news media outlet

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