Journalist – ‘Oslobodjenje’
OSLOBODJENJE NEWSPAPER OF THE YEAR
‘On 21 February 1993 we found out that Oslobodjenje had been proclaimed World Paper of the Year for 1992. At that time many of us were not aware of the conditions we were working neither in nor of the awards that kept coming from that year to the end of the war. Perhaps I, personally, have become aware of them now, these last months, when we returned to that destroyed building beside which soldiers, who keep arriving in new groups, like to have their photographs taken. Perhaps this is the only structure that remains as a witness of the horror that happened to the press, to Oslobodjenje, to our colleagues from the radio, from television. Like everyone, we worked in some kind of improvised offices in several places. And no one was actually aware of the conditions people worked in. The only important thing was for the papers to come out. Once one of our older colleagues managed to publish four pages of Oslobodjenje in the gutted building on his own. So it never happened that the paper did not come out at all. It is perhaps only now that we are becoming aware of the conditions we worked in and the awards. Now when heads have cooled a little we have become aware that we did quite a lot, and that all those words about how we all worked together, and that is what one of the awards we got is called: Journalists of All Nationalities, that we kept the concept alive together, that we fought for freedom. For the freedom of the press, the freedom of our expression, and then certainly for the freedom of our country. All those great words came later. And only now, when a person stops and looks back at what he was doing, that he would pass through all this hell, all of us who endured it in Oslobodjenje, that I would go through it again.’
• The Geneva negotiations move to New York.
• Sarajevo is surrounded by five rings :
1. The Bosnian Serb Army 2.The UN 3. The HVO 4. The black market 5. The current government
• The Bosnian Serbs shell mourning processions, funerals and hospitals in Sarajevo.
• Vinko Puljic, head of the Catholic church in BiH, meets with the Pope. From Sarajevo he conveys the Pope’s message to the world: “Stop the savagery, let humanity prevail!”
• Lord Robert Owen comes out against the USA, who had rejected a plan that favored the Bosnian Serbs.
• SUBNOR, an association of soldiers from the Second World War, makes an appeal to its members to fight against facism, genocide and ethnic cleansing, and for communal life.
• Advice to patients: If you go to the clinic, bring a log, because the heating situation is critical.
• The city is struck by wartime hyperinflation .
• The International Center for Peace receives representatives from the Helsinki Citizens Forum from France who need to monitor the situation in Sarajevo, and then report to the European and world public whether civil society exists in Sarajevo.
• The UNHCR suspends flights.
• High schools begin to operate at neighborhood council centers, business premises, apartments.
• Radio “Studio 99” reports news on the division of the city. Panicked listeners contact the program. Vance-Owen mediators are in the city; this information originates from them.
• Killed and wounded lay on the airport runway. During the run across the tarmac UNPROFOR reflect lights on it, giving Bosnian Serbs the chance to aim at the moving target. Afterward UN procedures are followed – those caught are placed in UN vehicles and the blue-helmets take them back to wherever they came from.
• The best sportsmen are announced for BiH in '92: chess players Vesna Basagic and Ivan Sokolov.
• The City Assembly decides that Sarajevans, in a gesture of solidarity with the citizens of Eastern Bosnia, will not accept humanitarian aid until a humanitarian convoy reaches Eastern Bosnia.
• The first wartime cinema opens, “Obala”. Screenings are held in Sarajevo basements.
• Because of the city government’s refusal to accept humanitarian aid, supplies are left lying on the airport runway. Pilots refuse to land because of the piles of undelivered food.
• “Oslobodjenje” is visited by Bianca Jagger.
• The UNHCR decides in Geneva: Government officials cannot be transported on UN planes. The previous month, Geneva had approved local reporters’ use of UN planes from the besieged city.
• The Civil Defense requests two containers from the city authorities to protect Sarajevans from snipers at intersections. The Civil Defense is unable to tow them because they have no fuel.
• Sadako Ogata, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), halts humanitarian aid to BiH, while the executive council sticks to its decision to refuse humanitarian aid out of solidarity with the citizens of Eastern Bosnia. Once this decision is reversed the air bridge is reestablished.
• New York, February 20, 1993. The UN Security Council unanimously adopts a new resolution extending the mandate of the 13,000 blue-helmets in Croatia. This resolution provides for the temporary extension of the UN mandate through March 31st. Resolution 807 urges the UN Secretary General to provide additional arms in order to enhance defense capabilities and allows the use of arms in the event of an attack on the peacekeepers, under paragraph 7 of the UN Charter. In addition, the temporary extension of the mandate includes the same tasks as the previous two terms, meaning the neutralization of heavy arms and the corresponding withdrawal of warring sides.
• “Oslobodjenje” proclaimed the world’s newspaper of the year.
• The information blockade of TVBiH is broken – the programming includes Studio Zenica live during the TV news.
• At gatherings across the world, amid protests against the impotence of the EC and UN to halt the bloody aggression in Bosnia, posters appear: “In Bosnia, Europe dies”.
• New York, February 22, 1993. The UN Security Council adopts a new resolution on the formation of an international court for war crimes within the territory of the former Yugoslavia. According to the text of the resolution, all war crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia from the first of January 1991 will be reviewed. All those charged with war crimes, mass killings and rapes, ethnic cleansing and other crimes against humanity will be brought before this court.
• The executive council of the city halts the boycott of humanitarian aid.
• The “Alsace shipment” arrives in Sarajevo. It is at the time the largest humanitarian convoy to arrive in Sarajevo.
The daily OSLOBODJENJE which is published in a completely destroyed building. When there is no sufficient paper it is published in small edition and the news vendors stick the sheets onto the facades. Also available are RATNI DANI and BLIC, the magazine TENNIS, the magazine of the Architects’ Association. Travelers also bring into the city old issues of the dailies and weeklies from the former Yugoslavia and elsewhere. These papers circulate from house to house.
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.
Maiden name Potocnik, (1947). She graduated from the Philosophy College (Yugoslav literature) in Sarajevo. She has worked as a teacher for one year, and has been working for the arts section of “Oslobodjenje” since 1972.
After May 13, 1992 she worked in the war editorial office of “Oslobodjenje” as a war reporter, and after 1993 she mostly covered cultural events. Since September 1993, she has also worked as editor-in-chief of the “Cankarjeva ZORA”, Sarajevo Slovenian magazine for culture.
It there were life after life, in what shape would you return?
In human, despite all.
How do you describe perfect happiness?
Does something like this exist?
What is you biggest loss?
The trip to England, Spain, America, Germany, Sweden, Israel, Croatia, Serbia...my closest, friends, some of them are already coming to visit me.
What is your biggest gain?
When and where were you happiest?
In London, from January 16 to 30, 1994.
What are your lost illusions?
I never had any illusions, I believed in life which I lived until May 1992.
Describe your day at work.
Fate and choice.
What words don’t you use anymore?
I still use the ones from before, but sometimes they sound empty.
In your opinion, is morale a virtue?
Where would you like to live?
In Sarajevo, and if I live to retire, at sea.
How have you survived?
By working, from the most banal jobs to learning.
What are you afraid of?
Darkness and insects.
Does the past exist for you?
This is the end of a civilization. What will the next one be like?
I don’t think this is the end.
Can you give us a recipe for mental health?
How would you like to die?
By natural death.
Do you need hope to live?
What did ’92 look like, and ’93, and ’94?
As with many, the lost sense of time, therefore “search for lost time.”
How would you call this period of your life?
The most precious.
Your message from the end of the world, from a country of last things?
“I will remain here. May this pain remind us of us. We will recognize each other by it later, if a Later exists at all.” (Cassandra, Christa Wolf)
Do you like life, and what is life all about?
I do love it. In the beginning God created the sky and the earth. And the earth was without a shape and deserted and there was darkness above the abyss, and God’s spirit rose above water. And God says: let there be light. And there was light...
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.