AS LONG AS SARAJEVO EXISTS
BY KEMAL KURSPAHIĆ
Foreword by Christopher Hitchens
Introduction by Roy Gutman
Here is the battle to save Bosnia's soul, described by one of her bravest warriors. A gripping, awe-inspiring book — Tom Gjelten, National Public Radio
THERE ARE FEW EXAMPLES in the experience of 20th century journalism which equal the heroism and the professionalism of the staff of Oslobodjenje . Having had their ten-story building reduced to rubble by artillery fire and five of their colleagues killed, the staff shifted its editorial quarters and its presses into a basement bomb shelter originally designed as a shield against nuclear war.
"No journalist woud argue with the claim of Bosnia's principal morning paper, Olsobodjenje, to be the 'Newspaper of the Year', commented The Guardian of London after the BBC announced the prestigious award. "This morning's issue is 319th to emerge from the nuclear shelter beneath the rubble of the Sarajevo press center."
This is the memoir of the newspaper's Editor-in-Chief, Kemal Kurspahić. It is an account of his "three wars in Sarajevo." First, it is the story of an editor, elected by his staff, successfully battling to take control of their own newspaper during the final years of Yugoslavia. It is also the story of how the newspaper survived and triumphed against a crude coalition of nationalist parties in their attempt to destroy its editorial independence following Bosnia's first democratic elections. Finally, Kurspahic's memoir enters the years of genocide in Bosnia and chronicles the resistance of a people and a newspaper to the rebirth of modern European fascism.
By its own example of maintaining a multiethnic staff of Serbs, Croats and Muslims who considered themselves Bosnians the paper stood as a powerful counterforce to nationalist bigotry and to the division of the country along ethnic lines.
Fifty years after its establishment as anti-fascist paper during Yugoslavia's resistance to Nazi occupation, Oslobodjenje (which translates as 'Liberation') renewed itself as an institutional symbol of Bosnia's centuries long traditions of pluralism and multiethnic coexistence.
In presenting its highest award the Nieman Foundation at Harvard University declared: "The Nieman Fellows...honor the staff of Oslobodjenje for reminding us that journalism, in any situation, should be a force for showing the common humanity amidst racial and ethnic diversity."
At the height of the siege of Sarajevo, Kemal Kurspahić was named by the World Press Review as "Editor of the Year" for [his] bravery, tenacity, and dedication to the principles of journalism, and for providing inspiration to journalists everywhere."
THE ANCIENT GREEKS HELD THAT COURAGE was not a virtue in itself, but that it was a quality that made all virtues possible. By its demonstration of fortitude under fire, and under worse than fire, Oslobodjenje set an example of courage which the profession might well want to emulate.
CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS in the Foreword
KEMAL KURSPAHIĆ'S GRIPPING, ELOQUENT MEMOIR makes clear that those responsible were individuals who risked their lives...[T]hey knew what was at stake. Preserving their free and independent voice against the gleichshaltung demanded by the Bosnian Serbs was only the most obvious of the survival struggles in which they had to engage.
ROY GUTMAN in the Introduction