San Mateo County Times

Internet gives war victims a voice
Sunday, April 11, 1999

By Liz Garone

Victims of war have usually suffered silently, unable to get their message through the chaos to a larger world. Not so in Kosovo, where e-mail lets people report firsthand and immediately on the bombings and killings.

"It seems to me that every shot comes from the direction of my parents' house, and it fills me with a fear that is chilling" reads an anonymous posting from Kosovo's capitol, Pristina, on "Kosovo Reports," an e-mail group on the Web.

"The electricity shuts off about 6 p.m.," the writer continues, "and it is not so smart to light a candle, because that will just show that someone is inside. So everyone stays in the dark, waiting."

There are countless Web sites related to the conflict, many of which have been hastily erected since NATO strikes began more than two weeks ago.

A lot simply repackage the news off official news sites. But, a few, ones such as "Kosovo Reports," bring readers to the front lines through direct, first-person postings.

"I wanted to put a human face on what is going on over there," said Steven Clift, an online strategy consultant in Minnesota. Clift started a discussion group called "Kosovo Reports" on the Web site on the day the strikes began.

More than 32,000 people have accessed "Kosovo Reports" since it went live, according to Sanford Dickert, director of marketing for San Francisco-based eGroups.

Anyone can submit an e-mail to the group, but Clift tries to limit the postings to stories straight out of the Balkans.

"I want first-person accounts," he said. "It (the list) is not about expressing political opinions and making statements."

"There are plenty of other sites for that."

A posting from the nickname Insomnia reads: "Where can you run to?! You would end up fleeing from one death site to another, round and round. For me, this is no way to save lives of 11 million Yugoslav people."

Clift wants to give people a better picture of what is taking place in Kosovo.

On the list is a posting from two Englishmen who have built a Web site for people searching for relatives who have fled to Albania.

After first warning people not to give away their identity without verifying who is asking for the information, the creators, Thibault Jamme and Henrik Risager, welcome people in.

"We have set it up to help you keep in touch with your family, friends, or loved ones from Kosovo in the hopes that someday you will be reunited again, at home," they wrote.

For San Jose resident Tika Jankovic, the Internet is the main way to exchange information about the conflict. A Serbian by birth, Jankovic moved to the United States 15 years ago.

"I get all my news from the Internet now," said Jankovic. "And e-mail is the only viable communication around the world."

Jankovic's sister lives in Belgrade. "She calls me and tells me about the bombings, the damage," he explained. "Then I go online and start e-mailing my friends around the world, the news.

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