Bosnia's battle of the airwaves
TV transmitters targeted
October 20, 1997
Web posted at: 11:18 a.m. EDT (1518 GMT)
BIJELJINA, Bosnia-Herzegovina (CNN) -- International police said on Monday an explosion damaged a television transmitter used by Bosnian Serb hard-line nationalists who control the eastern town of Bijeljina.
The transmitter, which had been used for unauthorized TV broadcasts by hard-liners allied with war criminal suspect Radovan Karadzic, was blown up at 2:10 a.m. (0010 GMT), local radio said.
"There was substantial damage to the transmitter and offices," said Jim Landsdale, spokesman for the U.N. International Police Task Force (IPTF). "No injuries have been reported," he said.
There was no word on the cause of the explosion or who might be responsible. The transmitter is on the ninth floor of a high-rise building in Bijeljina.
Hard-liners blamed for another transmitter outage
Over the weekend, the NATO-led force policing the country's peace agreement accused the nationalist hard-liners of sabotaging another transmitter -- this one, on Mount Zep, 50 miles (80 km) north of Sarajevo -- to prevent their political rivals from gaining access to the airwaves.
As a result, no television programming could be seen on the official Serb frequency in the eastern part of Bosnia's Serb territory.
Western powers ordered NATO troops to seize several transmitters earlier this month to halt what they called a propaganda offensive against the peace agreement. The seizure effectively handed the airwaves to the hard-liners' political opponent, the Western-backed Bosnian Serb President Biljana Plavsic, who is headquartered in Banja Luka.
The weekend TV disruption coincided with NATO action to stop hard-line nationalists from transmitting unauthorized "pirate" programs.
American-led forces moved to inspect the Mount Zep transmitter on Saturday, believing it was used to send three days of "pirate" news and features. But before they reached the tower, Pale TV, as it's known, stopped broadcasting. Pale is the Karadzic stronghold near Sarajevo.
Inside, NATO engineers found vital equipment missing, and blamed Serb hard-liners for wrecking not only their own signal but that of their political opponents.
By Sunday, NATO was on the offensive, using another transmission facility overlooking Sarajevo to transmit on Pale TV's own frequency. The broadcast said unknown Bosnian Serbs sabotaged part of the transmission network and promised that "programming from the Banja Luka studio will resume as soon as conditions permit."
The Mount Zep transmitter had undergone repairs after NATO bombed it two years ago, killing four people.
Correspondent Brent Sadler and Reuters contributed to this report.