December 1993

Zlatko Dizdarevic
Journalist – ‘Oslobodjenje’

‘In the name of the editors of Oslobodjenje, I went to Strasbourg to accept the Saharov Award at the European Parliament. This is the most important European award for human rights and for courage. I remember that up until the last minute we were in a great dilemma as to whether we should accept the award or not. The dilemma was not over whether or not we should appear at the podium where the award is given before all of the members of the European Parliament. We were rather in a dilemma as to whether it should be said right then and there that we felt it inappropriate to accept an award from those who had not done enough, or anything, to stop the war that was still going on in Sarajevo. We decided in the end that we would accept the award. At the ceremony I addressed the European Parliament and said that I felt it was quite ironic and cynical to give the award to those who are victims, because the presenters of the award themselves were not doing what they should be doing. We accepted the award primarily as an expression of thanks to Saharov and his wife, who personally said the following words that evening: ‘If my husband were alive, I am absolutely certain that he would be extremely happy that this award was given to you, and not to someone else’.’



• Peace negotiations in Geneva: negotiations on maps and percentages of territory. The BiH delegation requests: access to the sea, to the Sava and to a harbor.

• Yasushi Akashi appointed Special Envoy of the UN Secretary General for the former Yugoslavia.

• UNICEF helps establish a radio-school. Classes are held over this medium.

• Rounds of humanitarian aid to the citizens of Sarajevo include: a liter of cooking oil, 300 grams of beans, 200 grams of sugar, 400 grams of mackarel, 200 grams of detergent, and 2 candles per household.

• “Opresa” opens a small store in the city with the slogan “Life is about the small things”.
• The Soros Foundation donates a piano to the organization “Nasa djeca”.

• Mate Boban, President of “Herzeg-Bosnia”, promises to close camps holding Muslims.

• Founding of counseling for psychological help: “Staying Sane in Bosnia”.

• The theft of electricity in the city goes on in different ways: setting up of illegal connections, underground cables, connecting to prioritized sources and transformers.
• The Soros Foundation finances the production of 10 tons of rat poison. The active toxin is “Sanofarm”, but because the poison is not registered by law it cannot be distributed.

• “Oslobodjenje” receives the “Sakharov” award. Zlatko Dizdarevic, journalist and editor, receives the award at the European Parliament.
• The fairytale “A Dragon in Love” is shown in one of the apartment blocks in Alipasino polje.

• The bobsled team trains for the Olympic Games in Lillehammer, but do not know how to leave Sarajevo. They train every day, lift weights and run, depending on the shelling. On average they lose 5 kg of weight. The team must borrow a bobsled because theirs is burnt.

• The Russians reveal their own peace plan. Foreign Minister Vitali Churkin travels extensively in major European cities.

• Croatian President, Franjo Tudjman, and Serbian President, Slobodan Milosevic, present a plan on the division of BiH. 33.33% would go to the Muslims and 17.5% to the Croats. Lord Owen must convey this plan to the President of the Presidency of BiH, Alija Izetbegovic.

• The Sarajevo Tobacco Factory wraps cigarettes in book pages. “Toward the History of BiH Literature” is next in line”.

• In Sarajevo Cathedral a ceremonial Christmas concert is held.
• On the occasion of Catholic Christmas, the Pope sends a message: “Let light shine on upon the suffering peoples.”

• The city lacks electricity, water and salt for bread.

• The Festival “Sarajevo Winter” organizes screening of cartoons for children.
• A kitchen opened for people working in the public and culture sectors. UNPROFOR gives them food.


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.

Zlatko Dizdarevic
He was born in Sarajevo. He is journalist and editor in daily “Oslobodjenje”. Before the war, he was correspondent from the Middle East (Cairo, Beirut).

He was the first editor of the “Oslobodjenje” - war editorial. He published the books: “The War Diary”, “The Portraits”, “Silence and Nothing Else”. The awards: “Annual award 1992” - Reporteurs sans frontiers, “Bruno Krajski” - award for human rights - Vienna 1993, “Premio capri” - Italy; annual literary award, 1994. He is corespondent for “Time”; “La Republica”; “Frankfurter rundschau”.

It there were life after life, in what shape would you return?
Again like a human. As Zlatko Dizdarevic, with little more cleverness, if possible.

How do you describe perfect happiness?
As being a resident of “that”

What is you biggest loss?
The life I lived before the war.

What is your biggest gain?
The preservation of personal freedom.

When and where were you happiest?
When I was convinced that my sons have definitely accepted the Sarajevo system of values and the Sarajevo point of view.

What are your lost illusions?
I don’t have lost illusions, I may only feel a bit sorry for the people whom I believed in, and who ended up as poor individuals.

Describe your day at work.
Survival, writing, the pub.

It is a privilege that we have had it.

What words don’t you use anymore?
There are no such words.

In your opinion, is morale a virtue?
Of course it is.

Where would you like to live?
In “that” Sarajevo, or in Sinai.

How have you survived?
With the belief that I can and will survive.

What are you afraid of?

Does the past exist for you?
Of course it does, I love the past.

This is the end of a civilization. What will the next one be like?

Can you give us a recipe for mental health?
There is no recipe, you have to believe in your own abilities, and you must not bend your spine, nobody is worth it.

How would you like to die?
I don’t know, I guess without pain.

Do you need hope to live?
It is good to have, but not something outside that should be given to us.

What did ’92 look like, and ’93, and ’94?
We were foolish, then disappointed, and finally, realistic and strong.

How would you call this period of your life?
Dramatic and brutal.

Your message from the end of the world, from a country of last things?
To the world: You are miserable, you have no balls, and that is why you will die alone and sad. I feel sorry for you.

Do you like life, and what is life all about?
I have no idea what it is, but I love it, I guess because others do not rule it.


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.