Hostility Spreads to Airwaves; Serbs Intercept, Jam Muslim Radio Traffic

The Washington Post
March 2, 1993

SARAJEVO, March 1 – A Muslim shortwave radio operator in Cerska was shouting through the crackling receiver here that Serb militia forces were attacking the east Bosnian town. Then, all of a sudden, a menacing voice cut him off.

“You are lying, you Muslim filth,” the voice said. It was a Serb radio operator eavesdropping on the transmission.

Every day, shortwave radio operators here in the Bosnian capital contact their counterparts in other Muslim-held towns around the war-ravaged republic to exchange messages and information. Since there is no phone service to Cerska and the scores of other Muslim towns and villages cut off by Serb forces in eastern Bosnia, the shortwave frequencies are the only means of communication.

Today, as a small group of journalists here huddled around radio operator Himzo Devedzija, a Serb militiaman who had been listening in on the conversation with Cerska decided to speak his mind. He filled the air with insults, then started whistling.

The journalists urgently wanted to know from the Cerska operator if U.S. planes had airdropped food and medicine there overnight, but unless the Serb got off the air there was little use in continuing the transmission. So the journalists began interviewing the Serb.

“Hey, Serb,” the journalists’ translator shouted into the microphone. “Have you seen any food parcels? Have they dropped in your territory?”

The Serb, who never gave his name or location, seemed impressed by all the attention he was suddenly getting from the Western press. “Nothing, nothing,” he growled. “We don’t need anything.”

Then he reverted to his taunts of the Muslim in Cerska, which has not had any food deliveries for 10 months and is desperately awaiting U.S. airdrops.

“The food is falling, the food is falling,” the Serb teased. “Come and get it.”

Author: Peter Maass

I was born and raised in Los Angeles. In 1983, after graduating from the University of California at Berkeley, I went to Brussels as a copy editor for The Wall Street Journal/Europe. I left the Journal in 1985 to write for The New York Times and The International Herald Tribune, covering NATO and the European Union. In 1987 I moved to Seoul, South Korea, where I wrote primarily for The Washington Post. After three years in Asia I moved to Budapest to cover Eastern Europe and the Balkans. I spent most of 1992 and 1993 covering the war in Bosnia for the Post.