The main objective of the thesis is to analyze the media debate evolving around the run-up to the first elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina after the Dayton Peace Agreement which ended a three and a half year long war in November 1995. These elections took place on September 14, 1996 and were considered the “most complicated elections in history” by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and all other international bodies involved with organising the elections. To make the three former enemies cooperate and form a well functioning, governing body together, proved to be a long and painful process that is not at all completed more than ten years after. The United States played a decisive role in bringing about the Dayton Peace Agreement. High international profile and a lot of political prestige were connected to the fact that it was the U.S. and not the EU or other European negotiators who managed to bring peace to Bosnia. For the U.S. a lot of prestige was therefore also put into the accomplishment of the peace accords the way they were formulated, word by word, almost as a bible. The primary data for analysis in the thesis is mainly material from the American newspaper The International Herald Tribune during the months May through September 1996. It is considered a liberal, independent newspaper, and the material showed that it performed an independent coverage of the elections and its preparations in Bosnia in 1996.The media debate during the run-up to the elections evolved around whether the conditions for holding the elections were met or not. The agreement on elections of the Dayton Peace Agreement are set down in Annex III, and Article I makes a list of the conditions that had to be met for these elections to be free and fair. The list of conditions included: a political neutral environment, the right to vote in secret without fear or intimidation, freedom of expression and of the press, freedom of association, freedom of movement. In the period analysed, both reports and experience on the ground documented over and over again that conditions were not met. Based on a discourse analytical approach, the main focus of the analysis is: In what way does the newspaper coverage of the run-up to the elections reflect the question: - Were the conditions met for holding the elections on September 14, 1996? - How did the expressed position to this question reflect whether the press showed support for or had an independent/critical stand towards the policies of the U.S. administration?
All articles in the period June – September (the material from May was not complete) were defined within three codes, based on whether they had a positive, neutral or negative position to holding the elections on the prescribed date according to the Dayton Peace Accords. The analysis shows that the majority of the articles (73% of a total of 80 articles) did not favour holding the elections under the circumstances. This reflects that the U.S. press, and in particular the International Herald Tribune, had an independent, critical and at times oppositional position towards the politics of the U.S. government at the time. This is contrary to an assumption that the U.S. press mainly tends to support the policies of U.S. governments in its foreign news reporting. The overall perspective of the analysed material is a U.S. perspective, although the subject matter should be the situation in Bosnia. The analysis also shows that the dominating and hegemonic position of the U.S. as a leading power of the world is not challenged as a presupposition for the news coverage. The method chosen for analysing the material is Discourse Analysis, inspired by the Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) developed by Norman Fairclough. Stuart Hall’s article about “Encoding/decoding” (Hall 1992) is another inspiration for the analysis, as well as Van Dijk’s way of analysing news discourse. ( Van Dijk 1988). Concepts like the Western ‘Self’ and the Balkan ‘Other’ as developed by Hansen ( Hansen 2006) are other inspirations. Within the dominating election discourse, certain other basic discourses are defined, for instance a ‘Balkanization discourse’ relating to all that is defined in the West as negative about the Balkans: violent, tribal, ethnically divided, characterized by nationalism and conflict etc.