Commemoration for 16 killed during 1999 NATO bombing of Serbia’s state TV

Source: Ministarstvo za rad

The commemoration for 16 employees killed by the NATO bombing of Serbia’s Radio-Television, RTS' main building on April 23 1999, was held at 2:06 am on Friday, at the ‘Why?’ monument in the central Belgrade Tasmajdan park.

“We still ask why they were killed so mercilessly? Why were they sacrificed? Why was no NATO official held responsible? Why no one from Serbia’s authorities did nothing to prevent this tragedy from happening; why those bound to protect those people did nothing although there were announcements that the TV was a possible target,” Miroslav Medic, the brother of the killed Sinisa Medic.

In its statement, the state broadcaster said the bombing of the TV building was the first time in history that a media house was marked as a legitimate military target.

It added the TV was hit during airing news and that between 150 and 160 people were inside.

A month into the NATO bombing campaign of the then rump Yugoslavia comprising Serbia and Montenegro, launched to prevent what it said was looming humanitarian catastrophe in Kosovo, Serbia’s province at the time, the RTS master control room was hit killing 16 broadcaster’s technical staff on duty.

NATO justification for targeting RTS was that it was the regime’ propaganda tool, spreading lies about the campaign.

Six hours after the bombing, RTS resumed broadcast from a reserve location.

The bombing got the green light from the UN General Assembly. Still, the Security Council was avoided in fear of a possible veto by either Russia or China as permanent members.

Days ahead of the bombing, rumours were it would happen. Still, it continued with the broadcast from the main building, and a journalist even directly addressed NATO, saying “we are here,” giving it the address of the TV station.

After Slobodan Milosevic’s regime fell in 2000, the then RTS director Dragoljub Milanovic was sentenced to ten years for knowing the station was a target and failing to protect the staff.

Ilija Cerovic, acting TV director, said on Friday the ‘Why’ monument was a warning that “something like this should never happen again.”

“We know who killed them, but we do not know who convict them. We did nothing to prevent that and it’s our disgrace. How long shall we wait for the authorities to answer the victims’ families questions to help them know the truth and get justice,” Cerovic asked.