Thursday 29 March 2007

The EU's Inexcusable Pardon for Serbia

My Crisis Group colleague, Sabine Freizer, and I wrote this piece for the European Voice, which ran it on 29 March 2007.


Given the widespread negativity about further EU enlargement, it is curious that the EU is poised to lower the bar for Serbia, which Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said earlier this month could achieve candidate status by 2008.

Indeed, it is more than surprising – downright shocking – that the EU proposes to waive preconditions that the most notorious war criminals in Europe are arrested and transferred to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague.

For years, talks with Serbia over a stabilisation and association agreement (SAA) were strictly dependent on Belgrade’s full co-operation with the tribunal and from December 2004 to April 2005 this conditionality bore fruit. Serbia transferred 16 indictees before SAA talks began in May 2005.

But that is precisely when co-operation stopped.

Tuesday 27 March 2007

New Angles for Darfur

This originally appeared on my Reuters AlertNet blog on 27 March 2007.


I just finished a short round of meetings on Darfur with European journalists, and one thing that emerges over and over again is how desperate editors are for new angles on the issue. So, with the help of Reuters AlertNet, I would like to set up a contest to find new stories highlighting the issue.

The problem in getting more coverage for Darfur has never been finding journalists willing to cover it, and today -- as opposed to a couple years ago -- the problem isn't even convincing editors it's a critically important story. The difficulty is in finding new angles from which to cover the issue.

Saturday 17 March 2007

US and Iraq: Post-Pottery Barn Rules

I posted this on my Reuters AlertNet blog on 17 March 2007.


Former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s ominous pre-war warning, "You break it, you've bought it", set the tone for the public debate on Iraq for years to come. How ever bad Iraq got, the US would have to deal with it, because the American-led invasion had released numerous unforeseen, though hardly unforeseeable, consequences.

If last week's New York Times interview with Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton is any indication of where the American public debate stands today, and the new guiding principle really is, as she says, "the American people are done with Iraq", then the era of the "Pottery Barn rules" has given way to something much worse.

Monday 12 March 2007

Would You Live in Kosovo?

This appeared on my Reuters AlertNet blog on 12 March 2007.


Anyone who has followed Kosovo over the past decade or so knows that public debate on both the Kosovan and Serbian sides is fairly limited. It can seem like two monotones talking past each other: commentary in the media follows those familiar conflict mentality fall-backs of ancient history lessons and attempts to reinforce "our" victimhood. Only rarely does any local commentator really come up with something new to say, despite -- or perhaps because of -- the fast-approaching final status decision. This weekend in Belgrade was one of those rare moments, when a very refreshing opinion piece appeared in a key Serbian newspaper.

Thursday 8 March 2007

Worst Crisis Question of the Month

This was a short post on my Reuters AlertNet blog on 8 March 2007. Sadly, sharing the experience didn't help.


As Media Director of the International Crisis Group, I obviously answer a lot of journalists' questions about various conflicts. Some might even say it's part of my job. Of course, nearly all the journalists who call me are deeply interested in the conflicts they are covering and have sharp questions. On rare occasions, however, I get something thrown at me that is so outrageously crass or ill-informed that it bothers me for weeks. Perhaps by sharing it, I can purge myself of the memory.

Tuesday 6 March 2007

1000 Journalists Dead

This originally appeared on my Reuters AlertNet blog on 6 March 2007.


A comprehensive study released today finds that 1,000 journalists and news media support staff have died as a result of their reporting over the past ten years. On average, that’s two a week. The new report, entitled Killing the Messenger, was produced by the International News Safety Institute (INSI) and draws on an impressive number of sources, including input from the International Federation of Journalists, the Committee to Protect Journalists, the International Press Institute, the World Association of Newspapers, and Reporters Without Borders.
Apart from the headline figure, other key conclusions were

-- Only one in four died in war and other armed conflicts. The great majority died in peacetime, covering the news in their own countries.

-- Most of those killed were murdered because of their jobs; eliminated by hostile authorities or criminals.

-- Nine out of ten of their killers have never been prosecuted.

Inquiry Chairman Richard Sambrook, Director of BBC Global News, says in the executive summary: "The figures show… it is virtually risk free to kill a journalist. In many countries, murder has become the easiest, cheapest and most effective way of silencing troublesome reporting, and the more the killers get away with it the more the spiral of death is forced upwards."

"This is the most shocking fact at the heart of the inquiry. Impunity for the killers of journalists, who put themselves in harm's way to keep us all informed, shames governments around the world."

And the situation seems to be getting worse. The inquiry found that the news media death toll has increased steadily since 2000. The last full year covered by the report, 2005, was a record with 147 dead. It has since emerged that 2006 was even worse, with 167 fatalities, according to INSI's annual tally.

INSI's researchers counted all news media personnel -- journalists as well as support workers such as drivers, translators and office personnel, whether staff or freelance -- provided they died because of their work gathering or distributing the news. All causes of death were included, from murder through accidents to health-related.

The report comes with a number of recommendations and will no doubt become the seminal reference point for discussions of journalist safety for years to come.