During the Bosnian War, a vast 16th century Jewish cemetery in Sarajevo was the front line in multi-ethnic fighting.
The Muslim, Orthodox and Catholic Bosnia and Herzegovina capital historically nicknamed the ‘Jerusalem of Europe’ today has turned its back on violence, yet its media continue their tradition of resistance against war.
Oslobodenje newspaper editor-in-chief Vildana Selimbegovic described her journalists’ and printers’ efforts between 1992 and 1995:
“During the thousand-plus days of the Siege of Sarajevo, Oslobodenje was out every one of those days — even though we were in the firing line. The news room and the printing presses kept working. Oslobodenje was still delivered to its readers — and around the world.”
Independent media company FAMA harbours a virtual museum of the siege of Sarajevo. FAMA describes “the processes that led to the war, the destruction of a European city, humanitarian assistance, and how creativity helped people to resist the terror.”
In a former no-man’s-land, FAMA’s founder Suada Kapic told us:
“I spent four years watching and learning what exactly catastrophe is, how to survive in impossible conditions: shooting 24 hours per day, [round the clock] sniping, no food, no water, no electricity, no normal life, no schools, no institutions, nothing. Just how could you spend four years of your life doing something in very incredible ways. Sarajevans proved an extreme talent for survival.”
Esad Gotovusa during the siege drove a van around the city, which he had outfitted as a mobile studio with equipment donated from abroad. He sent television reports on radio frequencies, most regular antennae having been destroyed.
Gotovusa said: “Those were fairly challenging circumstances. All our equipment was analogue. We collected our material, put it together and came back fast every day.”
The Sarajevo-based WARM foundation, launched the year after the 20th anniversary of the start of the war, is dedicated to war reporting, art and memoirs. An international network of journalists, researchers and activists study the world’s contemporary conflicts.
WARM founder Rémy Ourdan, who covered the siege of Sarajevo first as a freelance correspondent, then joining Le Monde, said:
“We specialise in war, but we want to be open to everyone. We created this with the people of Sarajevo and journalists. It has opened up now to artists and university scholars. The idea is really to open up to all points of view. It’s a fight for truth.”