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Karadzic Arrested; Obama Overseas; Television Anchor Rivalry

Aired July 25, 2008 - 20:30:00   ET


FIONNUALA SWEENEY, HOST: Hello, I'm Fionnuala Sweeney in London. Welcome to CNN's INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS, where we examine how the media are covering the big stories.
This week, the arrest of one of the world's most wanted men. Radovan Karadzic is captured in Belgrade. We look at press coverage. It's all uproar Obama. The trip by the U.S. Democratic presidential candidate sparked huge media interest as news outlets are accused of bias. And it's a competitive business. The story of a television anchor accused of taking rivalry to a criminal extreme.

First, though, the capture of former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, who had lived for more than 12 years right under the noses of Serbian authorities. Karadzic this week was arrested on war crimes charges. The story was big news around the globe. And journalists who reported on and met Karadzic during their coverage of the Bosnian war in the mid 1990s have been revisiting the story.

Well, let's get more now on how the capture has been handled by the press and correspondents. Thoughts as well on Karadzic . For that, we turn to Millica Pesic, Serbian journalist and now executive director with the London based Media Diversity Institute. She is in Belgrade. And here in the studio, Mark Austin, anchor and correspondent with Britain's ITV News.

You reported for the network on the conflict in Bosnia and has this week been reporting from Sarajevo. First of all in Belgrade, Millica Pesic, the Western media has generally been hailing the capture of Radovan Karadzic. How has the Serbian media generally been reacting?

MILLICA PESIC, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, MEDIA DIVERSITY INITIATIVE: Well, I think most of the media are really (INAUDIBLE). Everyone is shocked, not only media what happened. And most of the media are actually paying attention more to, you know, the bizarre part, elements of his life over the last two years than actually why it happened now, who did it, and why Karadzic and not Mardic.

SWEENEY: Mark Austin, it seems somewhat improbable to reporters in Britain that somebody like Karadzic could have been captured and held for three days without somehow it leaking to the media?

MARK AUSTIN, ANCHOR, CORRESPONDENT, ITV NEWS: Yes, that was an extraordinary part of the story. I mean, there's no question in my mind that if that had happened here, it would have been leaked. That story would have come out very quickly. We have notoriously leaky Secret Service. Certainly our police leak all the time.

And I'm amazed that he managed, or the Secret Service, has managed to keep that quiet, although politicians I think is the important thing. They managed to keep that quiet for three days.

SWEENEY: Does that Millica imply to you then that this was a very political arrest, very well thought out, very well planned? And that's probably why the media had absolutely no inkling?

PESIC: Absolutely. Like if they managed to keep him around for 13 years, why not for another three days? So obviously, everything was planned. Those who were taking care of him, and those who decided to actually deliver him had good plan and had good cooperation with those who are having actually political power.

SWEENEY: Do you feel that the Serbian media reflects generally the public view of Radovan Karadzic?

PESIC: It's a bit difficult to answer that question because it has never been clear actually what's on the egg or chicken, whether the media tried to express here, you know, what the people really feel or people have their opinions after watching particularly televisions here or reading the media.

But I've been trying to test and talk to people to see how they feel about what is happening. My friend, my family, their friends. And it seems that majority of people really think it's best, you know, where we are. We've been (INAUDIBLE) of hostages of all the situation for years. The time has come, you know, to move on. Everyone is becoming part of the European Union. So I think we deserve to go that way, too.

It's of course related to the change of government and who is now in power.

SWEENEY: Mark Austin, I see you nodding your head in agreement. And you've just come back from Sarajevo as well as visiting the Soviet (INAUDIBLE).

AUSTIN: Yes, we went up to Parlay (ph) and it was very interesting. It was almost a generational thing. We tried to talk to some of the older people in Parlay. And they sort of waved us away. They didn't want to talk about this at all.

But some of the younger people, we spoke to young journalists there. And they said yes, look, this is the way it's going. And if he is committed war crimes, then so be it. But what they also said was that they wanted this to be an equitable affair system. And they were saying, complaining that the emphasis seemed to be on Serb war crimes, and less on Croat or Bosnian Muslim war crimes. That came through very strongly, but they would say that. But there was a very strong generational difference. SWEENEY: And when you went to Sarajevo, having been there in the mid '90s during the war, I mean, what was the reaction there? And how has it changed?

AUSTIN: Well, it was interesting because as soon as the news emerged on the first night, there was this sort of outburst of joy and delight and celebration. But by the time I got there the following day, I suppose the way to describe would be a quiet satisfaction. But also great concern that the process would follow the same way that the Milosevic process went in that he would draw this whole process out. I mean, he's already going to take months to compile his defense. He's going to defend himself. It will all take a very long time. And there was real fear there. I think that, you know, that just as Milosevic managed to drag this whole thing out and die before the verdict, that Radovan Karadzic, a very clever man, would try and be the same.

SWEENEY: Given Millica that Mark has just come from Sarajevo, how much do Serbs though through the media coverage of the last week or so, since the arrest of Radovan Karadzic, of the reaction in Sarajevo?

PESIC: Actually not very much. And that's one of the interesting things. Even those media who are giving a lot of information like why Karadzic actually was looked - needed to - in the (INAUDIBLE), the war crimes, then the victims and all that stuff, even those media were talking about why he was arrested, not talking very much about the reactions in Bosnia.

And I primarily think not about the reactions of the victims like families of those who were killed (INAUDIBLE) and other, you know, places and other massacres.

SWEENEY: Generally speaking, I mean, would Serbian journalists go often to Sarajevo and other places like that?

PESIC: Yes, there is no problem, Fionnuala, going to Sarajevo in so far. And there is no need for any kind of credentials or anything. So you can be there in couple of hours. So it's probably that everyone is still a bit shocked and trying to find out what happened.

And also, people, as I said, keep looking for bizarre elements of last two years of Karadzic's life, like you know, long hair, the woman he was in love with, the place he lived, you know, the newspapers he was writing for. And everybody's surprised that he was around. He was having coffee in the same place.

SWEENEY: Yes. PESIC: Giving speeches, presentations. And no one realized it was him.

So there is more interest in that bizarre side of, you know, the event and the news than really, you know, was the reaction in Bosnia. How do victims feel? Why it happened now? Who did it? And why not Radic (ph) but Karadzic.

SWEENEY: Mark, I'm wondering in the last few days since the arrests, we've been hearing a lot from a lot of the main players, Madeline Albright, Richard Holbrook, etcetera. And I'm wondering, you know, when they hail this as a great day for truth and reconciliation for justice, etcetera, well maybe not truth and reconciliation, I'm wondering does that have any impact at all on the people in Sarajevo and Parlay where you've just been? And does it help or hinder the process on the ground?

AUSTIN: Well, there's no question that it will help the whole process of trying to come to terms with what has happened. I do think, however, that Milavic (ph) is a very important part of this. I think that Radovan Karadzic was the political mastermind behind a lot of what happened. But I think Milavic (ph) was the sort of military commander, the hands on person. And I think

(Commercial break)

SWEENEY: Welcome back. Barack Obama's trip this week to the Middle East and Europe has dominated the U.S. presidential election campaign. The visit even attracted the television news elite in the U.S., as CBS, ABC, and NBC all sent in their main anchors.

It's the promise of exclusive interviews with the Democratic candidate. Meanwhile, Republican rival John mccain has had a tough time getting his message across. His recent travels abroad were barely mentioned. And this week, "The New York Times" decided not to publish his op-ed article on the war in Iraq, a rebuttal to one written by Obama on July 14th.

The newspaper defended its decision, saying it wanted mccain to add specifics, and says it's standard procedure on its op-ed page to go back and forth with an author.

So is it another sign of media bias against John mccain in favor of Barack Obama? Let's examine coverage of the candidates a little further now. And for that, we turn to Howard Kurtz, media reporter with "The Washington Post" and host of CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES." And here in the studio is Christopher Lockwood, U.S. editor with "The Economist" magazine.

Howard Kurtz in Washington, D.C., are John mccain's fears about media bias in favor of Barack Obama well founded?

HOWARD KURTZ, MEDIA REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: Well, let's put it this way. If the media wanted to argue they're not favoring Obama over mccain, the events over the last week to 10 days are not a very good case. "The New York Times" looked bad, looked like it was loading the dice when it was happy to print an opinion piece from Senator Barack Obama, and then turned down one from John mccain.

The incredible just almost saturation coverage at the Obama trip across the Middle East and Europe has gotten this past week is in stark contrast to mccain, who seems to be just sort of gasping for media oxygen. So there's a lot of very legitimate questions being raised about whether or not this has just gotten to be unbalanced.

SWEENEY: Let me ask you, I'm not sure you're able to answer this, Howard, but do we know, did "The New York Times" go back and forth with Barack Obama about his piece earlier in the month?

KURTZ: There's no evidence that there was any hesitation to print this opinion piece by Barack Obama. And look, both of these pieces were just sort of political boilerplate, restating the candidates' positions on Iraq. But you can't give that precious real estate to one candidate, and then tell the other one, sorry, your piece just doesn't measure up. You can't do that at the height of a presidential campaign without being accused of favoritism toward one side. And that's what "The Times" is - has not successfully - has not very successfully had to deal with.

SWEENEY: Chris Lockwood, this international trip of Barack Obama earlier this week, it's been totally staged managed as much as possible by the Obama campaign. Has it gone as well as can be expected so far?

CHRISTOPHER LOCKWOOD, U.S. EDITOR, THE ECONOMIST: Well, I think it has. He had a very successful trip really. He went to Iraq and Afghanistan and then to the political mine field that is the Israelis- Palestine conglomerate. And he handled it very well I have to say. He didn't get into any difficulties. And there were very many difficulties he could have got into. He looked good with the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. He didn't offend anyone too much in Palestine, which I thought was adroitly done again.

And of course, in Europe, he's getting enormous crowds. So yes, I think it has been a pretty successful trip. It has been very stage managed and any opportunities for possible conflict unlike when mccain goes traveling, where he takes questions from anyone have been adroitly managed. His press opportunities in Iraq and Afghanistan, you know, carefully arranged for him by the Army.

SWEENEY: Howard Kurtz, do Americans care about the overseas ability of Barack Obama to look presidential?

KURTZ: Well, you know, we've never really been through this before. I've covered a lot of presidential campaigns. And usually, they're fought out right here in the 50 states. So we see a candidate taking his whole campaign entourage to Iraq and Afghanistan and to Israelis and the West Bank and all of that and Germany is really a novel experience for us. But of course, Barack Obama's a novel candidate, the guy who most Americans hadn't heard of a couple years ago.

And let me just say this about the trip. I don't think there was any great risk on this trip. I think there was kind of a media invention to build interest in the journey that he was going to put all five toes in his mouth. I mean, all he had to, you know, after all, these foreign leaders know he could well be the next president of the United States. They're going to be nice to him. All he really had to do was to get through his interviews and press conferences. And he's very good at that.

SWEENEY: Chris Lockwood, I mean, you've been great at predicting how things can play out in the future when we talked to you in the past. I mean, dare you look into your crystal ball and see how it's going to play out in terms of media coverage? And have you ever seen anything like this before in terms of the media emphasis in this campaign?

LOCKWOOD: It's certainly the case that Barack Obama gets far more attention than John mccain. And it's true that people are a bit more excited about him. He is an exciting candidate. But the fact remains that the polling shows it to be pretty much of a dead heat at the moment. The latest average of opinion polls shows him two, three percent ahead of mccain. So it's by no means a done deal.

But judging from the amount of attention that one candidate gets compared with the other, you would think it was much more one sided than it is.

SWEENEY: But then again, we're talking about the media coverage here. I mean, Howard Kurtz, I mean it doesn't always follow that what the media likes, that the American public will necessarily like?

KURTZ: Oh, that's certainly true. But it is a close race. And - but that's clearly not reflected. I mean, by every conceivable measure, and I've done the math here, the amount of air time on national television, you know, the number of magazine covers on the national news weeklies, even the fluffy interviews with some of the entertainment shows, Barack Obama is creaming John mccain because of this media fascination, some would say bias, some would say fixation with his candidacy.

This trip, although he's had some pretty tough interviews by these anchors who were kind of criticized for traveling halfway around the world to sit down with him, it's been mostly about the pictures. You see Obama with the troops, Obama with the foreign leaders, Obama laying the wreath at the Holocaust Memorial. That translates into his one - that attempts to deal with his one weakness in this campaign. And that is he has very little foreign policy experience.

SWEENEY: Well, behind every good campaign is a good campaign manager. I mean, doesn't this necessarily demonstrate how well and tightly run the Obama camp is?

KURTZ: Sure. And that was one of the things that surprised Hillary Clinton during the primaries. I mean, here was a guy who no one ever heard of, and he put together a team, and not only raised a lot of money, but was able to stage these events with precision.

And doing this, it's almost been like a White House trip effect that's been covered almost as if he were already president. And that does certainly speak to a team that knows how to get the proper settings in place, the nice backdrops, and all of that.

SWEENEY: Is there any kind of government standards when it comes to how much coverage a candidate gets on television in the U.S., such as there is in Britain on public television and you know, in other countries?

KURTZ: Fortunately not from my point of view. There are - is no government regulation of news organizations. And if they want to totally swoon over one candidate over another, there's no rule, there's no bureaucrat who can tell them not to do that.

But there is, of course, the court of public opinion. And I wonder whether there's going to be a bit of a backlash if this keeps up against the press, which is already quite unpopular here, for appearing to favor one candidate over another.

I mean, Obama has gotten such a good ride in the media, that the latest criticism of him is that he's hard to make fun of. The comics are having a tough time mocking him because he's just so perfect. And maybe he needs to have a little more sense of humor about himself.

Well, if that's the worst thing they can say about you, you're having a pretty good campaign.

SWEENEY: So Chris Lockwood, let's go back to that part where you're looking into your crystal ball. So how do you think it's going to play out in the next few weeks and months?

LOCKWOOD: Well, it's interesting I wonder. Everything depends on how the economy turns out, it seems to me. Foreign policy is not what this election is all about. Barack Obama has got a weakness there. It's clear from all the polling that Americans think that John mccain is better suited to be commander in chief and better trusted to know about foreign policy.

And I think what Obama's been trying to do is not to turn that around, but just to remove the lead to some extent. Having done that, I think he goes back to where the fight is really going to be fought, which is on the question of the economy.

And at the moment, you know, the economy looks quite bleak. Gas prices are high. Repossessions are high. All of those things benefit Obama.

If, on the other hand, we start getting some better news from the economy, I know one bit of good news is that the economy isn't in fact in recession even though most people think that it is, you know, that could turn things around a little bit. If gas prices continue to fall, and they have been falling in recent weeks, that again could end up helping mccain.

So you know, we are still quite a long way 'til November.

SWEENEY: Oh, gosh, aren't we? Howard Kurtz in Washington, D.C. and Chris Lockwood here in the studio, thank you very much indeed.

Here in Britain, formula 1 racing box Max Mosley has won a landmark privacy invasion case against the tabloid newspaper "The News of the World." The publication had accused the 68-year old of taking part in an orgy with prostitutes that had a Nazi theme. Mosley admitted he had an encounter with sex workers, but said it was private and consensual.

High court Judge David Edy (ph) ordered "The News of the World" to pay $120,000 in compensation plus legal costs. But he did not award the punitive and exemplary damages Mosley had sought to deter other newspapers from running similar stories.

Jealousy and rivalry, it's not uncommon in this business. But this story takes that to a whole new level as two anchors are caught in the middle of a cyber snooping scandal.

(Commercial break)

SWEENEY: Welcome back. Journalism, it's the competitive business. And reporters are renowned for going to extremes to edge out their rival, but they're not normally going to lengths that end up making the headlines. Well in the U.S., authorities have charged a TV anchor with snooping on a co-worker's e-mail and using the information he found there to covertly smear her public image.

Mary Snow has details on the cyber snooping scandal.

(Begin videotape)

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Here are former anchors Alicia Lane and Larry Mente in happier days seen in a promo for PhilaDelphia TV station KYW that's posted on Youtube. That's before they became the subject of a scandal.

Lane was fired in January after her personal life became tabloid fodder. Now Federal prosecutors are charging him with illegally hacking into her e-mail account and leaking personal information that led to her downfall.

LAURIE MAGID, ACTING U.S. ATTORNEY: You will see that he is on there many, many days in a row. And there are days that he is on her e-mail up to a dozen times.

SNOW: Prosecutors say some of those e-mails were between Lane and her attorney. In January, she was fired after being arrested in a scuffle with plain clothes police in New York. A month later, she appeared in court with her attorney announcing the charges were dropped.

ALICIA LANE: I just want to say I'm just so glad this is over.

SNOW: Prosecutors say Mente could face six months in jail. In a statement, his attorney said, "As we continually have said from day one, Larry has been cooperating fully with the investigators. He continues to cooperate and will accept full responsibility for his actions."

Lane's attorney calls it the two faces of Larry Mente. One is "her trusted friend and co-anchor, while at the same time covering his dark side to systematically and methodically destroy his co-anchor's life both professionally and publicly."

As to just how Mente might have broken into his former co-worker's computer, a PhilaDelphia Inquirer columnist tells us this.

MICHAEL KLEIN, PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER: Our sources are telling us that he or someone else installed a small device on her work computer one day, that captured the key strokes.

SNOW: The prosecutor in the case isn't commenting on how the passwords were accessed, but says the case serves as a broader reminder.

MAGID: So this kind of case is an opportunity for us to urge people to protect your password. Don't give it out willingly. And also, don't be tricked into giving it out.

SNOW (on camera): What prosecutors can't say is how common this kind of cyber spying might be. In this case, prosecutors say the snooping lasted for more than two years. PhilaDelphia station KYW had no comment on the Federal charge brought against its former employee.

Mary snow, CNN, new york.

(End videotape)

SWEENEY: It could never happen here. Well, if you want to see that story or any part of the show again, you can go to our website, And while you're there, you can also view our archive, take part in the quick vote, and read the blog. The address

That's all for this edition of the program. Tune in again next time for another look at how the media are handling the big issues.

I'm Fionnuala Sweeney. Thanks for joining us.