In the year since the 1999 air campaign against Yugoslavia, Nato and its member governments have sought to learn from the experience of handling the media during the conflict. Assessing media performance during the war, this paper seeks to draw an alternative set of lessons, from the perspective that more informative, independent and objective reporting would be desirable.
The media themselves became a focus of the Kosovo war: some Western politicians criticised the coverage provided by their own national media, and Nato bombed Serbian broadcasting. Kosovo was also dubbed īthe first Internet war', but while the Internet played an important role in making alternative sources of information and commentary available, this has to be set against the global reach of the media of the leading Nato powers.
In coverage of the build up to war, the bombing campaign itself, and the subsequent Nato occupation of Kosovo, the mainstream media of the Nato bloc often failed to report important facts and submitted the official version of events to little or no scrutiny. The major Western news organisations acted as a de facto propaganda arm of Nato, rather than fulfilling their professed role as servants of democracy.