Greek journalist sued for writings on Bosnia

Via Marko Hoare’s blog, here’s an unhappy story about Greek journalist Takis Michas. A few years back, Michas wrote a book about the links between Greece and the Bosnian war — Greek support for Milosevic and Karadzic, Greek volunteers going to fight for the Serb side in Bosnia, and so forth.

Well, now he’s being sued by a Greek veteran of the Bosnian war. The lawsuit seems pretty dubious; the volunteer is claiming that he’s been libelled because Michas described the Greek volunteers as “paramilitaries” who took part in the Srebrenica massacre when (the volunteer says) they were in fact members in good standing of the Serb Bosnian army who just happened to be in Srebrenica around that time. The suit is being funded by something called the “Panhellenic Macedonian Front”, which is an umbrella group for a variety of extreme nationalists. A short interview with Michas, discussing the lawsuit, can be found here:

DANIEL TOLJAGA: Do you have any comments about the lawsuit and the press statements Mr. Vitalis has made?

TAKIS MICHAS: Yes. First of all Mr. Vitalis explicitly admits that Greeks (i.e. himself) took part in the planning and execution of the Serb “re-occupation” (as he calls it) of Srebrenica. As he says in his press statement “I was present with a group of senior Serb officers in all the operations for the re-occupation of Srebrenica by the Serbs”.

Secondly, Mr Vitalis admits that the recruitment of Greek volunteers for the war against the legitimate government of Bosnia took place with the implicit approval of the leading Greek politicians Andreas Papandreou and (to a lesser extent) Constantine Mitsotakis. As he puts it:

“The whole of Greece knows that the Greek volunteers had the broad support of Greek society as a whole as well as the support of politicians, mainly belonging to PASOK, because of the warm friendship between Andreas Papandreou and Radovan Karadzic. They also enjoyed the support of New Democracy, through the friendly diplomatic initiatives of Constantine Mitsotakis.”

This reinforces the point I have repeatedly made, namely that Greek support for the Serb war effort was not only moral, economic, diplomatic and political but also military.

This is something that’s not widely realized outside the region: Milosevic and Karadzic were incredibly popular in Greece in the 1990s. Support for the Serbs was universal at almost every level of government, while the Greek media consistently gave the Serb version of events and ignored competing narratives. To a great extent, this is still true; Greek discourse on the Balkan wars is completely dominated by pro-Serb narratives. Most Greeks think that (for instance) the Srebrenica massacre was either grossly overblown or completely faked, that Kosovo was a land where Milosevic had to take over to restore order and protect the Serbs from genocide by murderous Albanian terrorists, and that Bosnia was a struggle of Orthodox Christians defending themselves against aggression by Turks… er, Bosniaks.

Or, to put it another way:

DANIEL TOLJAGA: It is interesting that he publicly admitted being present himself “in all the military operations” related to the “re-occupation” of Srebrenica. Do you have any idea why Mr. Vitalis has not been investigated for possible war crimes?

TAKIS MICHAS: Because, as I have shown in my book, in Greece Serb actions during the war in Bosnia are not regarded as “crimes” but as “heroic deeds”. This applies to Srebrenica as well. No Greek government has made any statement at any time during the last 15 years explicitly condemning the killings at Srebrenica – this is a unique state of affairs for a European country.

And thus:

DANIEL TOLJAGA: Are you worried about the forthcoming trial?

TAKIS MICHAS: In any other European country this lawsuit would have been thrown out of court. But as I have said repeatedly Greece is not a normal European country. Given the spirit of extreme nationalism that permeates the country and the fact that Karadzic and Mladic are venerated as saints by the majority of the public and the political class, I have every reason to feel worried.

Michas thinks there’ll be an effort to put Srebrenica itself on trial — i.e., to give a forum to denialism of the massacre and, if possible, to get a ruling formally ratifying it (at least in Greece). That’s depressingly plausible.

57 thoughts on “Greek journalist sued for writings on Bosnia

  1. and part II:
    “… this is not an analogous situation. FYROM is actually a country that really exists on the historic region of Macedonia.
    “And, the bulk of FYROM land was not part of Macedonia in ancient or medieval times.”

    Most of the region was known as “Paionia”, and it was an integral part of the ancient Kingdom of Macedonia.

    Well, no. Only a small part of it is part of the historic region of Macedonia(unless you mean in Alexander’s time, when half the world all the way to India was a part of his kingdom). Look it up in ancient maps as in
    “Paionia or Paeonia was in ancient geography, the land of the Paeonians
    , the exact boundaries of which, like the early history of its inhabitants,
    are very obscure but they were in the region of Thrace. In the time of Classical Greece, Paionia
    originally including the whole Axios River valley and the surrounding areas, in what is now the
    northern part of the Greek region of Macedonia, most of the Republic of Macedonia, and a small
    part of western Bulgaria.[1] It was located immediately north of ancient Macedon (roughly
    corresponding to the modern Greek region of Macedonia) and south of Dardania (Europe)
    (roughly corresponding to modern-day Kosovo). In the east were other Thracians and in the west the Illyrians.
    In early times, the chief town and seat of the Paionian kings was Bylazora (now Veles in the Republic of Macedonia)
    They joined with the Illyrians in resisting the northward expansion of the Macedonian state….”

    Further, as far as I know every archaeological finding from ancient macedonia has been found in Greece, not in FYROM.

    “and both the Slavs as well as the Greeks, as historic inhabitants of the territory, have an equal right to claim it? There’s no rational reason whatsoever why the name cannot be shared both by the Greek province as well as by the neighbouring independent republic.”
    Although greeks may think they have more than equal right(been there much longer) as well as they have practically all of Macedonia except for very small regions, I would go along with the “equal”. So share the name, but disambiguate by something like “North Macedonia”. What the hell is wrong with that? It aknowledges the neighbor’s concerns, does not mistakenly try to potray them as the only Macedonians and settles a stupid row once and for all. At the same time Greece aknowledges that FYROM are Macedonians(of the North), so their macedonian identity is safe. Are South and North Koreans not Korean? Same way with the language.

    To further give you an example of how stupid the theory that a country can name itself as it pleases without any control, suppose that Greece splits and its province Macedonia also becomes an independent state. Are you saying that a) they will be entitled to the name as they wish or b) they would need FYROM’s approval, so that the smaller and with much less relation to the region gets to dictate the name of the larger, more populous and with a stronger historical connection part?

    “So, again: it doesn’t matter. Regions change and adapt their names all the time, both by the local inhabitants as well as by the outsiders; it’s a normal historical phenomenon, and doesn’t necessarily have any logic.”

    Apparently it matters to greece and fyrom. You yourself seemed opposed to the idea of a Scotland, but the argument you gave was a logical(although incorrect) one, i.e. that FYROM is not even close to Scotland. So you do accept logic and this is why I support a sane name like North Macedonia, which acounts for both parties concerns. Right now it is FYROM which does not seem agree to a sane solution, and coupled to all the rest of the actions I mention above makes it very clear that their position is stupid and they are to be blamed for making a mess, raising the temperatures and creating a bad atmosphere for no reason.

  2. Ombrageux loihe lausuman:

    “Greeks should not be allowed on the intertubes.”

    Yeah, that’s pretty obvious. I’ll cover this in one really short post.


    “Chris” commented:

    “Can you find ONE example when he uses the term to refer to the more numerous and with a much stronger historical connection greek macedonians?”

    … the mysterious “he” in the above quote refers to Douglas Muir. To give you a real short answer: frankly, I don’t give a fuck. Assuming that Doug would be writing an article specifically of the said Greek province of Macedonia and its population, I suppose that he’d do exactly that. But ask him, not me.

    “Greece has moved from its initial position and accepts a compromise name, while FYROM has not moved an inch.”

    “Not an inch”? That’s a load of bollocks.

    “So share the name, but disambiguate by something like ‘North Macedonia’.”

    Right on! So, can we also expect the Greek province to change it name to “South Macedonia” correspondingly?

    Whatever. Bugger along, you and your low national self-esteem. Thankfully the rest of your countrymen aren’t like you. I suspect that you wouldn’t mind boycotting Finland, because this country dared to plagiarize the blue-cross flag, originally a patent Greek invention?


    J. J.

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  4. Right, when someone shoots down your stupid theories, he must be greek and must be banished. Way to hold a discussion!

    As for the mysterious “he”, I already said that this is not a question for you except that you tried to defend it by an untenable suggestion:
    “Hasn’t it occurred to you that he may use the term for both groups”

    “Not an inch”. Precisely. Greece has moved from its initial position to a new one” We still don’t understand why the hell you want the name of a region you have nothing to do with -just like Sicily or Scotland, but since you want it so badly, let’s say you are ALSO macedonian by adopting a qualifier. But no, FYROM is still in the early 20th century mentality and want all of it. Admitting that they are not the only macedonians is viewed as treason”

    “So, can we also expect the Greek province to change it name to “South Macedonia” correspondingly”
    Meaning the region holding the vast majority of Macedonia?

    “Bugger along, you and your low national self-esteem”
    Another great way to hold a discussion. Did you measure my national self-esteem?

    When you are short of arguments, you either try to end the discussion by insulting your party, or change the subject. The crux of the matter is that FYROM has about as much relation to Macedonia, as it does to Scotland and you agreed that taking the name Scotland is unacceptable.

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