SNIPERS SHOOT AT JOURNALISTS// 09. 1992. • MEHMED HALILOVIC// JOURNALIST – ‘OSLOBODJENJE’
ORAL HISTORY - INTERVIEW
ORAL HISTORY - TRANSCRIPT
SNIPERS SHOOT AT JOURNALISTS
‘That was a day when there was worse sniper fire than usual aimed at the journalists and workers of Oslobodjenje who at great risk went to work every day in the Oslobodjenje building.Transport was uncertain, crossing the intersections dangerous. It needed superhuman effort to get to the building and into the entrance on the other side.’
• The Presidency of BiH decides the evacuation of children by the organization Children’s Embassy will only be carried out under the strictest security.
• Slobodan Milosevic dismisses Milan Panic, the new president of the government of Yugoslavia.
• In the Sarajevo neighborhood of Stup, the site of a bustling market, the situation grows tense. The HVO, BiH Territorial Defense and Bosnian Serbs erect barricades against each another.
• The city’s government battles epidemics of entercolitis and dysentery.
• Sarajevo’s Jewish community announces: “We want to be Bosnian Jews. During the Second World War, the Muslims acted the most justly. They protected the Jews.”
• Russian media blames the Muslims for all of the Serbs′ actions.
• Serb snipers fire at journalists from “Oslobodjenje” as they enter their office.
• An overland corridor is established between Split and Sarajevo.
• The Serbs agree to place their heavy artillery under UNPROFOR control after the expiration of the deadline of the ultimatum.
• Associations are established in Sarajevo for citizens expelled from other towns in BiH.
• An Italian humanitarian flight is shot down.
• Geneva, September 4, 1992. In Geneva, under the auspices of the UN and EC, in the Palace of Nations, an international conference begins on the former Yugoslavia.
• Humanitarian aid networks bring the citizens of Sarajevo 400 kg of food daily.
• The Children’s Embassy convoy is put on hold.
• The Ministry of Education issues a statement that enrolment in school is dependent on security conditions.
• Geneva, September 6, 1992. At the international conference, the aggressor’s side is asked to place all of its heavy artillery around Sarajevo, Gorazde, Bihac and Jajce under UN control by September 12. Karadzic doesn’t sign the agreement on placing heavy artillery under UNPROFOR control.
• Despite the deadline given Radovan Karadzic on handing over arms to UNPROFOR control, he continues to negotiate over the size of artillery pieces to be confiscated.
• Robbery of the “Fruktal” warehouse in Stup. HVO units and Juka’s unit compete over who will take more. The headquarters of the HVO in Mostar is given an ultimatum by the Armed Forces of BiH in Sarajevo to withdraw from Stup within 48 hours.
• Premier performance of the play “Skloniste” at the War Theatre “Sartr.”
• The “Holiday Inn” Hotel makes $230,000 in two months because it is the only hotel that can receive foreign journalists and supply them with food, water and electricity.
• Citizens rip out seesaws and benches from parks to survive the winter.
• The citizens of Sarajevo can buy a barrel of water up to 30 liters for 10 Deutsche Marks. Those that are able to get water from one of the rare sources in the city know that one canister of water could cost them their lives because of exposure to snipers and shelling.
• Dr Mario Landeka, at the “Paleta” gallery, displays 22 paintings on the theme of water.
• Bosnian Serb forces place their arms under UNPROFOR control at 11 positions.
• The Bosnian Serbs launch a heavy offensive. HVO units flee Stup, retreating from the city’s line of defense.
• The BiH delegation travels to Geneva for peace negotiations.
• The city lacks chlorine for the chlorination of drinking water, leading to negotations with UNPROFOR.
• The Bosnian Serb offensive on Stup continues, in an attempt to enter the city through its weakened defensive lines.
• The children’s choir “Palcici” writes to Princess Diana to tell her what’s happening to them.
• 20 authors display a portfolio of prints “SA 92”.
• Football league matches are held in Sarajevo under the slogan “It’s important to participate.”
• The city is ravaged by hunger, illness, despair and death.
• Muslims and Croats flee Grbavica, the occupied part of the city, paying ransoms on their own lives to the Serbs.
• A match is played between Sarajevo and UNPROFOR. The final score is 12 - 3.
The only papers you can buy during the siege are OSLOBODJENJE and VECERNJE NOVINE Once upon a time, OSLOBODJENJE had a format like the Times or Frankfurter Allgemeine. It had thirty-two, twenty- four or sixteen pages. Since June of 1991, its size started to diminish. Now it is of a mini-format, with eight or, more often, four pages. People who sell it are the journalists themselves - between 7:30 and 9:00 a.m. Due to the shortage of paper, editions came down to 10,000 copies. After November 1992, they came down to 5,000, which makes the time of distribution no longer then twenty minutes. Stronger readers seem to be winning. Radio Bosnia and Herzegovina, Studio Sarajevo, is broadcasting 24 hours a day. When there is electricity, one listens to more than just news. The news is broadcast every hour and everyone is waiting for it. Television today is no more than a few informative broadcasts, live programs and a press-conference held daily in the International Press Center.
The building housing „Oslobođenje“, which published a daily newspaper of the same name, is today a heap of rubble. However, the daily Oslobođenje is still published. Its size, printing run, the colour of its paper and print depend on the circumstances. It is produced, as before, in the basement, under the rubble, and it is sold by its journalists.
Oslobođenje has won numerous international press prizes this year including the Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought.
There is also a privately owned paper Ratni dani (Wartimes Days) and this fall there has appeared another independent, privately owned weekly – Blic (Flash).
Some other, more specialized, papers are also published in the city: Ljiljan (The Lily), Muslimanski glas (The Moslem Voice), the Jewish community paper, and there is even Tennis for the lovers of the sport.
In the summer of 1992 the great skyscraper of the “Oslobodjenje” newspaper publishing house was hit by tens of inflammable shells and it started to burn. The building was being systematically destroyed by everyday shelling. In spite of that, even during fires and the worst shelling, the printing shop plant located in the basement of the building produced newspapers on a daily basis. The journalists were getting in and out under the burning building carrying bundles of newspapers which they distributed throughout the city.
At the beginning of the siege the Yugoslav National Army and the SDS terrorists (the Serbian Democratic Party members were proclaimed terrorists by the Bosnian government) deployed their snipers in tall buildings and in the barracks to shoot at citizens. Even when they were removed from the city the distance between the city streets and the tall buildings on the hills in the occupied territory was sufficient to allow sniping by semi-automatic guns produced by the Yugoslav army. According to the data gathered in 1995 the snipers, shooting from small holes made in the walls of the buildings or from the bushes, had wounded 1030 and killed 225 persons, 60 of whom were children. In some European newspapers one could read reports about the “war tourism” which included sniping the citizens of Sarajevo. The Russian avant-garde writer Limonov was caught on camera indulging in this “enjoyable sport”.