KEMAL KURSPAHIC is the Chairman-Founder of the Media in Democracy Institute, based in the Washington, DC, area. He was the editor-in-chief of the Bosnian daily Oslobodjenje in Sarajevo, 1988-94. Under his leadership, the paper waged three battles for the freedom of expression: breaking from the League of Communists control and becoming The Paper of the Year in Yugoslavia in 1989; defending its independence against nationalistic parties in power in 1991; and publishing daily from an atomic bomb shelter during the Sarajevo siege, 1992-95.

Oslobodjenje was internationally praised as the voice of ethnic and religious tolerance amid ravages of war, receiving The Paper of the Year Award in 1992 (BBC and Granada TV - Great Britain), Freedom Award in 1993 (Dagens nyheter, Stockholm and Politiken, Copenhagen), Oscar Romero Award 1993 (The Rothko Chapel - Houston, Texas), Nieman Foundation’s Louis M. Lyons Award for Conscience and Integrity in Journalism in 1993 (Harvard University, USA), Achievements in Journalism Award in 1993 (Inter Press Service, Rome), Andrei Sakharov Award for Human Rights 1993 (European Parliament, Strasbourg, France) and other honours.

Mr. Kurspahic has received numerous awards, including the International Women’s Media Foundation Courage in Journalism Award in 1992; the World Press Review’s International Editor of the Year and the Bruno Kreisky Award for Human Rights in 1993; the International Press Institute’s World Press Freedom Hero in 2000, and the South Eastern Europe Media Organization’s Dr Erhard Busek Award for Better Understanding in the Region in 2003.

Mr. Kurspahic was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University; Clark Fellow at Cornell University; and a Senior Fellow at the US Institute of Peace. He held lectures and seminars at universities across the U.S. and made presentations to the high-level foreign policy and media audiences.

Mr. Kurspahic served as the Managing Editor of The Connection Newspapers in McLean, VA, USA (1997-2001). In that capacity he received the Virginia Press Association’s Best Editorial Pages Award in 1999.

He is the author of four books:

  • Prime Time Crime: Balkan Media in War and Peace (US Institute of Peace Press, 2003), and this book was also published both in Bosnia Herzegovina and Serbia under the title Zloc?in u 19:30 – Balkanski mediji u ratu i miru (Mediacentar, Sarajevo – 2003, and Dan graf, Belgrade – 2004), receiving very positive reviews throughout the region;
  • As Long as Sarajevo Exists (Pamphleteer’s Press, 1997),
  • Letters from War (Ideje, Sarajevo 1992), and
  • The White House (Oslobodjenje, Sarajevo, 1984).

His Op-Ed pieces have been published in major international newspapers, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The International Herald Tribune, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, Miami Herald as well as in the HetParool and Volkskrant in Holland, Dagens nyheter in Sweden, Politiken in Denmark, De Standaard in Belgium, Die Zeit, Der Tagesspiegel and Die Tageszeitung in Germany and other European papers.

Mr. Kurspahic was granted interviews by some of the most prominent international leaders including the President of the United States Ronald Reagan, Secretary-General of the United Nations Javier Peres de Cuellar, the late Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, Sri Lankan President Premadasa and others.

He was interviewed on major international radio and TV news programs.

Most recently, he worked for five years for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, first as the Spokesman in Vienna (2001-2004) and then as the Caribbean Regional Representative, responsible for 29 states and territories.

Mr. Kurspahic was born on December 1, 1946 in Mrkonjic-Grad, Bosnia Herzegovina. He became a small-town correspondent for Oslobodjenje as a high school freshman in Sanski Most in October 1962. As a student at the Belgrade University’s Law School he was an editor of the weekly Student during the year of students' unrest in Europe in 1968. He became a professional correspondent for Oslobodjenje in Belgrade in 1969 and since then was a correspondent in Jajce (1971-1973), editor of Sports, Politics and Newsroom departments in Oslobodjenje (1974-1981), the UN correspondent in New York (1981-1985), deputy editor-in-chief (1985-1988). In December 1988 he became the first editor-in-chief elected by the editorial staff of Oslobodjenje.

Mr. Kurspahic is married to Vesna Kurspahic and they have two children, Tarik and Mirza, both born in Sarajevo.