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Page last updated at 16:54 GMT, Wednesday, 23 July 2008 17:54 UK

Serbia's 'News story of the Year'

Serbian newspaper front pages display pictures of Radovan Karadzic
TV stations dubbed the arrest the 'News of the Year'
Serbian broadcast and print media gave extensive coverage to Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic's arrest.

TV stations dedicated almost entire prime-time news bulletins to the arrest, expanding coverage into special programmes.

The tabloids focused on the mysteries of Mr Karadzic's second identity while readers and listeners posted comments expressing their relief over the arrest.

State television

After its prime-time news bulletin on 22 July, RTS aired a special, unscheduled programme on the arrest, entitled "Karadzic - myth and reality". The programme was a mixture of short interviews with politicians - including Bosnian Serb PM Milorad Dodik - and pundits, archive footage and a short feature about Mr Karadzic and the Hague Tribunal indictment.

The government official in charge of relations with The Hague, Rasim Ljajic, refused to divulge more information on Karadzic's arrest. "I cannot say much - the coming days will answer all your questions," he said. He explained, however, that the Security and Information Agency, BIA, was behind the arrest operation.

Mr Ljajic, chairman of the National Council for Co-operation with The Hague, added that the move is probably the best evidence of the government's determination to arrest the remaining fugitives, Ratko Mladic and Goran Hadzic.

"We are aware that a half, maybe even more than a half of Serbia, does not approve of this, but we believe that citizens will, in three or four years, realise that this was the best solution," he said.

Bosnian Serb Republic (Republika Srpska) Prime Minister Milorad Dodik said Mr Karadzic's arrest could not bring the entity into question. "No collective body has ever been put on trial," he said.

"Some 27,000 Serbs in Bosnia-Hercegovina were not killed by humanitarians, but by a certain policy, for which someone must be held responsible." He said the Republika Srpska will offer help to Karadzic's family should they need it to visit him in The Hague.

Pro-Western commercial B92 TV

B92 TV focused on Mr Karadzic's double life and his alias as Dragan David Dabic. The broadcaster interviewed Goran Kojic, the editor of a lifestyle magazine for which Mr Dabic wrote on alternative medicine and spirituality. Mr Kojic said he was stunned to learn the real identity of the monk-like contributor, describing him as looking: "somewhere between a bohemian and Freud".

A web designer who developed a site which aimed to promote Mr Dabic's healing powers said he came across as "a very pleasant man" who "attracted attention with his looks".

Speaking about the impact the arrest could have on the search for Mr Mladic and Mr Hadzic, a prominent Belgrade journalist, Dragan Bujosevic, commented that: "Finding them could prove to be harder now, because they will be more careful".

He said it was unlikely that there would be protests on the streets of Belgrade: "People will ask themselves: What is more important to me? To educate my children normally, to live normally?"

Serbian Fox Television

"One of the most wanted fugitives in the world lived among us. He was not hiding, he was just hiding his identity," is how the US-based News Corporation-owned Fox Television summarised the "the news of the day, of the week and the year". Fox said it was the most-watched TV station in Serbia after it claimed to have broken the news late on 21 July. Fox TV extended its news bulletin that evening, turning it into a four-hour special programme.

It was the only TV station monitored which carried reactions from Mr Karadzic's friends, who remain: "proud, because he did not turn himself in".

The channel dedicated its regular political programme "Tell It to the People" to the arrest, interviewing Mr Karadzic's lawyer Svetozar Vujacic, who said he was: "honoured to defend the biggest Serb hero alive". Mr Vujacic insisted that Karadzic was arrested on a bus last Friday, 18 July and accused the government of not daring to go public with the news over the weekend because an assembly session had been called for Monday, 20 July.

He speculated that the extradition could take place next week, or maybe even this weekend, because "it will take them three seconds to reject my appeal".

He alleged that Karadzic was planning to surrender to Serbian authorities in 2009, because "he wanted to be tried by our court, he trusts our courts".

"Which Serb has proved his innocence before the Hague tribunal?" Mr Vujacic asked.

Newspapers and press

"EU satisfied, awaits [former Bosnian Serb CGS Ratko] Mladic" read the main front-page headline in the pro-government broadsheet Politika.

"What can we expect from the EU after Radovan Karadzic's arrest: Serbia will get the membership by 2014" said the Swiss-owned wide-circulation tabloid Blic quoting the EU's Javier Solana.

Politika emphasised the importance of the international reaction to the arrest. "An indication of the exhilaration over Karadzic's surprising arrest is perhaps the fact that Belgrade, for the first time, was not rapped on the knuckles from either Washington, The Hague or Brussels".

The nationalist tabloids focused on Mr Karadzic's "betrayal" and questioned the official version of his arrest.

"Who sold Radovan?" asked Kurir in its main front-page headline and "How much for a Serb?" asked Pravda, while Glas javnosti asserted: "They will extradite history to The Hague".

Another tabloid, the non-nationalist Press, asked "Who got 6.6m dollars?"

The tabloids were fascinated by Mr Karadzic's new identity as an alternative practitioner.

"Karadzic worked as a quack" was the main front-page headline in the tabloid Press. The report noted that Karadzic "freely moved not only all over Serbia, but across the region and even Russia!".

"Dr Dabic's advice: There are no hopeless situations", said another Politika front-page headline.

A story in Blic and a report in the pro-Western daily Danas noted that Karadzic used to play "songs about himself" on a traditional one-string instrument gusle in his favourite pub in Belgrade.

Online

Viewers who posted comments about the RTS special programme on the website were mostly positive about the arrest. "I'd like to know which state should support Karadzic? He is not a citizen of Serbia, therefore, Serbia has no obligations towards him," an anonymous viewer wrote. Another, calling himself "Yugo" disagreed: "Radovan should get all the possible help from all Serb lands and communities" he wrote.

Another anonymous viewer wrote: "Regarding Radovan's arrest, I as a Serb from the Serb Republic, can say freely: it was high time!"

"Finally!" exclaimed one radio listener on the B92 website.

Several expressed doubts about the role of former PM Vojislav Kostunica: "A question: Did the former premier know where the most wanted man in the world was hiding? Will he, like any other citizen of Serbia, be held accountable before the law for aiding and abetting the indictee?" one asked.

BBC Monitoring selects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaux abroad.



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