Saturday, March 27, 1999 Published at 05:11 GMT
Analysis: Piercing the propaganda
Nato's "co-operative" approach: Explaining the plan to journalists
By BBC News Online's Jonathan Duffy
It is sometimes said that the first casualty of war is truth, and recent events in the Balkans seem to reinforce that view.
But the expulsion order was rescinded on Friday and the BBC's World Affairs Editor, John Simpson, says Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic now seems to have been persuaded that the decision to expel the journalists was a mistake.
Past masters of spin
Not that this is a totally one-way street, says Michael Bromley, a lecturer in journalism at Cardiff University.
It is well recognised that since the Gulf War, America, and to a lesser degree the other Western nations, are past masters at "spinning" a conflict such as this.
The difference, says Mr Bromley, is between two different types of propaganda.
"It's got to be a concerted action, that is there has to be more than one state involved in the attacks. It's got to be a demonised opponent, in this case Slobodan Milosovic," he says.
"It's got to be limited, clinical action where your targets are military and definitely not civilian. And it's got to have the support of the people inside the country, in this case I mean the Albanians in Kosovo."
Never say 'no comment'
Presentation is the key, and that means helping meet reporters' demands.
"You never say 'no comment' and you never lie, in case you get found out. You just tell the truths you want."
To a "critical and informed" news-hungry public, such as the British people, it simply fuels suspicions that they have something to hide, says Mr Bromley, who observed the media close up during a visit to Yugoslavia last year.
Even Iraq, which is viewed by the West as a relatively closed society, did not partake in this sort of "black propaganda", he says.
"The Iraqis were much more informed by the models we have in the West compared to the Serbs, who seem to be more informed by the old Soviet model."
For many journalists in Yugoslavia, it's been a wholly different story. Many were harassed and threatened with physical violence before being escorted out of the country.
Local radio stations and newspapers have been shut down, although one consistently independent voice from inside Yugoslavia, Radio B92, has continued to broadcast on the Internet.
Patriotic backing track
This will rest better with the rural population than those in urban centres, says Mr Bromley.
"There are massive differences between urban and rural communities in Yugoslavia. Those in towns and cities are much more in the Western mould, and want various stories to complete the picture," he says.
"The people in the countryside are happy to rely on just one version. That is what they have been used to for so many years."
As hostilities deepen and the propaganda machines on both sides continue to pump out their preferred versions of events, the job of the journalist to seek a truthful account is getting ever-more difficult.