TO THE BELGRADE DAILY "POLITIKA" REGARDING REPORTING ON THE HEAVY BEATING OF FATHER JEREMIJA STAROVLAH AND HIS SON ALEKSANDAR
On April 13, 2004 your newspaper published an article under the headline "Starovlahs were not beaten up" regarding the SFOR operation in Pale during which Orthodox priest Jeremija (Jeremiah) Starovlah and his son Aleksandar were beaten almost to death.
You took the text from the Banja Luka magazine "Patriot"; however, it is inexplicable that you took only the justification of the crime committed against our priest and his son.
The first thing that attracts our attention is the headline, informing the reader that Father Jeremija and Aleksandar were not beaten up, contrary to the claims of His Beatitude the Serbian Patriarch Kyr Pavle, his bishops and priests, but instead accidentally hurt. Such reporting is tendentious and we believe injurious to the Serbian Orthodox Church. In the hope that you adhere to the code of journalistic ethics, we expect you to publish this rebuttal in its entirety on the same page where the text we refer to was published.
We need to tell the truth: Fr. Jeremija and Aleksandar Starovlah were brutally beaten up by SFOR soldiers.
We make this claim on the basis of the testimony of Jeremijah's wife and Aleksandar's mother, physicians at Tuzla Hospital, physicians from the Military Medical Academy from Belgrade, and physicians from Banja Luka. Some of this testimony may be found on the website of the Metropolitanate of Dabro-Bosnia (www.mitropolijadabrobosanska.org) along with relevant photographs in the event that you are interested on objectively reporting on this unfortunate incident.
The article published in your newspaper also gives other false information, such as the presence of SFOR physicians in Tuzla Hospital (neither of the injured was examined by a SFOR physician).
SFOR's claim that it did not know the floor plan on the ground floor and that this resulted in increased pressure following the explosion is not true because only a month and a half earlier they searched the same house from top to bottom, using three video cameras to film every corner. They even measured the length and width of the balconies, the thickness of the doors, door posts and walls. They knew every detail and could have determined precisely how much explosive they needed to break into the building.
At the moment of the explosion, Mrs. Vitorka Starovah was in the hall with her son Aleksandar. Neither Aleksandar nor Vitorka were injured at that time. She left the hall only after she saw a soldier entering her son's room from the balcony.
Obviously, the injuries occurred after the SFOR troops had already entered the apartment; how else could they possibly have occurred except through the inappropriate use of force?
All our communiques and reactions can be seen, read, cited and distributed by your newspaper from the website of the Metropolitanate of Dabro-Bosnia.
In our opinion, this operation had a specific goal: to intimidate the Orthodox Serb people in Bosnia and Herzegovina. This goal can be most easily achieved by striking at the Church, which is the conscience and spiritual solace of the people.
Unfortunately, we have observed that this is not the first time that "Politika", our oldest daily, has written about the Serbian Orthodox Church in a biased manner.
Media in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, in most of the cases, have extremely negative and malicious position towards the Orthodox Church. In newspapers one can find wording such as “perception of life and world imprisoned by the mysticism of Orthodoxy” (Reference: Daily Newspaper Oslobodjenje, 03 April 2004, Column: Here and Today, Title: “With the taste of hypocrisy”, Author: Gojko Beric); or “to kick Orthodox Christians into back once again” (Reference: Daily Newspaper Oslobodjenje, 03 April 2004, Title: Specialist for non sense things, Author: Marko Vesovic), and many more. The Diocese of Dabar-Bosnia has referred to the Media Council on the occasion of malicious articles but without any success. The position of media in regard to reporting on the Orthodox Church and everything that is orthodox has created among other peoples often extremely negative feelings that have concrete consequences.
In the city of Sarajevo, after the last war, more then 90% of the population are Muslims, and the behavior of media produces negative and destructive reaction against the Christian population.