Originally created 04/18/99

Yugoslavs reach US media via computer



NEW YORK -- As NATO air strikes continue across Yugoslavia, residents of the war-torn region are calling for a stop to the bombing via a new source: direct e-mails to American media outlets.

CNN, The Associated Press, National Public Radio and The Washington Post are among the news organizations receiving dozens of daily e-mails from inside Yugoslavia. The missives run the gamut from calls for peace to descriptions of destruction to poetry.

"Here, for the first time, the country where the conflict's taking place is wired," said Kerrin Roberts, spokesman for CNN Interactive. "In previous instances -- for example, Baghdad last year -- it was not the same situation."

E-mails to CNN from inside Yugoslavia jumped 10-fold after the Kosovo bombing commenced March 24, Roberts said. CNN also saw an increase in e-mails sent from Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia and Slovenia.

"A lot of it is very heated rhetoric, anti-NATO, anti-U.S.," Roberts said. "The other side is more human stories about how their lives are affected by this."

Typical of the angrier e-mails was this one sent to the AP, a lengthy letter that ended, "To be a Serb now is to be helpless ... to listen to the euphemistic and hypocritic (sic) phrases as `peace-making mission,' `moral imperative."'

The e-mail efforts appeared to be scattershot; the foreign desks at the Los Angeles Times and USA Today said they had not received any e-mails out of Yugoslavia. But once the writers found an e-mail address, they seemed to spread it quickly.

Tom Reid, London correspondent for The Washington Post, said he began receiving 30 to 50 e-mails per day once the Kosovo bombing commenced on March 24.

"They're coming from professors at universities, from activists all over Yugoslavia," Reid said Friday. "They all ring the same. ... The general tenor is, `Please remember there are human beings under your bombs."'

Reid thought the correspondents behind the unsolicited e-mail explosion found his address on either the Post's web site or the bottom of his syndicated column. He's noticed some of the e-mails contain the addresses of assorted other news organizations, too.

National Public Radio, in addition to unsolicited e-mails, has featured reports on a continuing e-mail exchange between a California teen and a 16-year-old girl from Kosovo.

The updates from Finnegan Hamill, a reporter for the award-winning group Youth Radio, have detailed the problems of a teen identified by the pseudonym "Adona." The two teens have been in contact since January.

"We've gotten lots of regular mail about that," said NPR's Jenny Lawhorn.

At AP, anywhere from 50 to 100 e-mails per day were arriving through its website, The Wire. Some of the writers send as many as five e-mails per day about the continuing conflict.

Mixed in with the more typical fare was an e-mail from a Belgrade man who had composed a poem about the bombings:

"Considered lucky is one who does not,

"Live near the bridges of any kind, or

"Live near the railways, or

"Live near the roads, or

"Live near the airports."