The mass executions at
Srebrenica took place in July, which meant that the story was two months old.
Important new stories from the region were breaking on a daily basis.
the importance of Rohde's report, Faye Bowers and her boss, Foreign Editor
Clay Jones, granted Rohde a two-week hiatus in September to search refugee
camps for families of the victims and survivors of the suspected Serb mass
Virtually all of the 30,000
people in the camps had suffered immeasurable hardship. Some had been driven
from their homes at gunpoint, others raped or subjected to physical abuse.
Most had been stripped of their possessions. Many refugees had witnessed the
execution of their loved ones. Others only knew their relatives were missing.
Although they lacked the medical personnel to diagnose it, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) was common among
refugees. The refugees seethed with hatred for the Serbs.
All of these factors complicated
their reliability as sources.
Gutman, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of refugees in the
former Yugoslavia explains, "Modern conflict is not between armies anymore.
It's militaries against civilians." The Muslims had been ruled by authoritarian
regimes for centuries. So, as David Rohde wrote, "Exaggeration and manipulation
of the facts [were] well-accepted tools for survival and propaganda [was]
the norm." Objective accounts of war crimes were hard to come by.
After conducting hundreds
of interviews (with the help of his translator), Rohde managed to find nine
survivors whose stories of the executions of scores of Muslims he trusted.
He had to gain their trust before they would talk. Some had never spoken to
a journalist before. Each independently verified details that corroborated
what he had seen or been told by others. Rohde spent hours with each survivor
asking them the same questions repeatedly to be sure their stories were true.
Even though he was keenly aware of the hardships that the refugees and survivors
suffered, Rohde refused categorically to give gifts or to pay sources. He
wanted absolutely nothing to taint the story.