Edited/Distributed by HURINet - The Human Rights Information Network --------------------------------------------------------------------- ## author : tkeenan@BINGHAMTON.EDU ## date : 12.04.99 --------------------------------------------------------------------- [This article has been excerpted.] CRISIS IN THE BALKANS: THE CHAT ROOMS; War Waged on the Web: Killers Without Context By AMY HARMON 5.4.99 (New York Times): The on-line chat last Tuesday began like others on MSNBC, with the host introducing the featured guest to an Internet audience logged in from all over the world. Except...this guest was Arkan, the notorious Serbian paramilitary leader who is believed to be responsible for some of the worst atrocities of the Bosnian war and who is reportedly now back in action in Kosovo. And even for some of MSNBC's most frequent chatters, the greeting scrolling across their computer screens was surreal. "Hi, it's good to be here," it read. "We are under the bombing umbrella, but we're alive. I'm ready to take your questions now!" In many ways, the Internet is personalizing the war in Yugoslavia for Americans, as accounts from Kosovo circulate on E-mail, chat rooms offer interaction with all sides and on-line polls invite voting on what to do next. ...issues of ethics and taste are arising that underscore the double-edged nature of the Internet's celebrated immediacy. "We're all still trying to figure out what to do with this medium so when you get into a war like this you try out a lot of new things," said Robert Leavitt, associate director of New York University's Center for War Peace and the News Media. "The problem is you want to use all these tools and we've not thought through what's appropriate and what's useful." At MSNBC, the decision to put Arkan on line -- which elicited a raft of angry E-mail -- came only after an internal debate. "We felt you put him on television and give him a general interest news questioner, there's a bigger chance of him pulling the wool over your eyes," said Michael Moran, the Web site's international editor. "We exposed him to the wrath of people who know him and know what he did, as well as people who probably admire him.' The day after Arkan's appearance, the international war crimes tribunal announced...it had indicted him, and he has since appeared on several television talk shows. Critics argue...whatever benefits the Internet offers by removing traditional journalistic filters may be outweighed by sacrificing traditional journalistic context. "I'm not saying he should be censored," said Patrick Ball, a human rights activist. "But I don't think he should be put in a chat room where his words can take on the authority of coming from anyone other than a criminal." Chris Donohue, MSNBC's chat producer, who relayed the questions to Arkan by phone and transcribed his answers for the cyberspace audience, said he sifted through more than 1,000 questions submitted in the 30-minute chat session and tried to cover a variety of subjects. "There were several questions about genocide, about what was happening to the men in Kosovo," he said. The one question we didn't get to was, "Do you have a girlfriend?' That one always comes up, it's a good make-them-smile question. I wanted to get to it, but we didn't." Those who...participated in MSNBC's chat and watched the television interviews with Arkan offer a glimpse at the different effect of the mediums. "When I saw him on TV I turned him off because he sounded a little over the edge," said Carol Joy, 57, of Delray Beach, Fla. "But in chat when you're just reading his statements I saw him in a totally different light. I became furious with our Government for invading his territory." Americans are logging on to the Internet to get news about the war in numbers that have surprised many on-line editors. With most reporters banned from Kosovo, people may be turning to the Internet for alternative sources. For instance, Slate, Microsoft's on-line magazine, is publishing anonymous E-mail accounts from a reporter inside Kosovo. "It shows the difference the Web can make," said Michael Kinsley, Slate's editor. "Unless they want to shut down the whole telephone system they can't stop information from getting out, or getting back in." To supplement its coverage, ABCNEWS.com has been publishing E-mail journals. "These people are not technically journalists," said Mary Bruno, executive producer of the ABC site. "These are people wishing they had a cigarette. But that's what is really unique to the Internet." At Time.com, Time magazine's site, foreign correspondents in the Balkans leave messages on an answering machine, and an on-line editor can work the information into a report. The site, which initiated an "ask Time" feature about Yugoslavia, received 5,000 E-mailed questions about Yugoslavia in five days last week. Perhaps the most compelling -- and sometimes confusing -- war news on the Internet circulates in the form of E-mails from people in Kosovo or on its borders. "It's all happening so fast it's hard to process," said Albert Cevallos, an analyst with the International Crisis Group, a human rights organization. "Some of the stuff I've seen and read is just overwhelming. You stop and stare and your computer screen and you have to take a walk outside." ---------------------------------- Send mail for the 'huridocs-tech' list to 'firstname.lastname@example.org'. Mail administrative requests to 'email@example.com'. For additional assistance, send mail to: 'firstname.lastname@example.org'. Archives of previous messages posted to the list can be found at: http://www.human-rights.net/huridocs-tech.
[Reply to this message] [Start a new topic] [Date Index] [Thread Index] [Author Index] [Subject Index] [List Home Page] [HREA Home Page]