The Editor-in-Chief of Bosnia's Leading Newspaper Chronicles a Remarkable
Story of Journalism and Resistance
Forward by Christopher Hitchens
Kemal Kurspahic came to Lippman House to receive the Louis Lyons Award on behalf of himself and his staff. His seminar was more than ample evidence of the "courage and integrity" which the award was created to honor. The conversation with Kemal Kurspahic also justified the conclusion in the citation that, "The Nieman Fellows...honor the staff of Oslobodjenje for reminding us that journalism, in any situation, should be a force for showing the common humanity amidst racial and ethnic diversity." - The Nieman Foundation at Harvard University
At the height of the siege of Sarajevo, Kemal Kurspahic, the Editor-in-Chief of the Bosnian daily newspaper, Oslobodjenje, was named by the World Press Review as Editor of the Year "for [his] bravery, tenacity, and dedication to the principles of journalism, and for providing inspiration for journalists everywhere."
This is the story of Kurspahic's "three wars in Sarajevo." It is an account of an editor, elected by his staff, successfully battling with his colleagues to take control of their own newspaper during the final years of Yugoslavia. It is also the story of how the paper survived and triumphed against a crude coalition of nationalist parties in their attempt to destroy its editorial independence following Bosnia's first democratic elections. Finally, Kurspahic's memoir enters the years of genocide in Bosnia and chronicles the resistance of a people and a newspaper to the rebirth of modem European fascism.
There are few examples in the experience of 20th Century journalism which equal the heroism and the professionalism of the staff of Oslobodjenje. Having had their ten story building reduced to rubble by artillery fire and five of their colleagues killed, the staff shifted its editorial quarters and its presses into a basement bomb shelter originally designed as a shield against nuclear war. "No journalist would argue with the claim of Bosnia's principal morning paper, Oslobodjenje, to be Newspaper of the Year," commented The Guardian of London after the BBC and Granada Television announced the prestigious award. "This morning's issue is the 319th to emerge from the nuclear shelter beneath the rubble of its Sarajevo press center."
Fifty years after its establishment as an anti-fascist paper during Yugoslavia's partisan resistance to the Nazi occupation, Oslobodjenje (which translates as Liberation) renewed itself as an institutional symbol of two deeper Bosnian traditions: democratic tolerance and Sarajevo's five century long commitment to a multi cultural society of equal citizens, regardless of their religion or nationality.
By its own example of maintaining a multiethnic staff of
Serbs, Croats and Muslims, who insist that as Bosnians they will never
accept the ideology of apartheid in their country, the paper has stood
as a poignant counter force to nationalist bigotry and external efforts
to partition the country along ethnic lines. In presenting its highest
award, the Nieman Foundation at Harvard University declared, "The Nieman
Fellows...honor the staff of Oslobodjenje for reminding us that journalism,
in any situation, should be a force for showing the common humanity amidst
racial and ethnic diversity."
For review copies or further information phone or write to:
Contact the Author (Kemal Kurspahic)