LIKE VIETNAM, Bosnia was a forcing house for a generation of western reporters, but most of those who returned with burnished reputations to London and Paris and New York had the comfort of armored cars, and flak jackets, and a reluctance among the ethnic cleansers to mess too crudely with the West. For Kemal Kurspahić and those who worked with him at Sarajevo's only surviving newspaper, there were no such comforts. From a building reduced to rubble by artillery fire, with only candles to light their work and little but conscience to reward them, the men and women of Oslobodjenje helped to keep the flame of freedom alive. In Kurspahić's account of that struggle—As Long As Sarajevo Exists—a profession with too many cardboard heroes has a benchmark of true grit.
John Burns, The New York Times
Recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting, 1993
KEMAL KURSPAHIĆ has emerged from Bosnia with the most extraordinary story of all.... At times, [his] book verges on the surreal: a Serb commander calls Oslobodjenje, asks whether the paper ordered 32 mortar shells, promises to deliver them, and moments later 32 mortar shells are fired at the paper. Such events were routine in the anything-but-routine life of Oslobodjenje.... [H]is book poignantly describes the humanity and heroism of his reporters—men and women of all ages, of all ethnic groups, devoted to one goal, which was to produce a newspaper that upheld the highest standards of journalism and morality. They succeeded, and although the outcome of the war is not what they wished for or what the people of Bosnia deserve, their story is an inspiring one that, thanks to Kurspahić, will not be forgotten. It is here for all to read and be amazed by.
Peter Maas, The Washington Post
Former Correspondent in Bosnia and author of Love Thy Neighbor: A War Story
....[R]EMARKABLY ENGAGING and readable... Almost as interesting as the professional details of how to produce a newspaper under fire, without money, fuel or newsprint, is Kurspahić's honest depiction of the stresses of communal conflict.
Ian Williams, The Nation
THIS REMARKABLE BOOK by the editor of Sarajevo's main newspaper, Oslobodjenje ("Liberation"), is a story of the publication's struggle for free expression against the assaults of Communists and nationalists and for its very survival during the city's horrific siege under Serb guns. It is also a tale of indomitable courage in the face of deprivation, destruction, and death as the paper became a metaphor of its staff's endurance and their city's ordeal. The author's commitment to the truth emerges in accounts both of Serbs who deserted to Bosnia's "Serb Republic" and of those blinded by "Muslim racism." Such values earned Kurspahić the highest awards in Western journalism, yet he finds a "sad irony" in the newspaper's achievement and his country's effective "partition" after the Dayton accords. This book nicely complements Tom Gjelten's Sarajevo Daily: A City and Its Newspaper Under Siege. Recommended for public and larger academic libraries.
The Library Journal
THE GRIPPING AND POIGNANT ACCOUNT of the survival of Sarajevo's daily newspaper and the abiding ideal of peaceful coexistence that it symbolizes.... But Kurspahić, its editor in chief during the war, does more than just narrate their story. He places his paper's struggle in the broader context of events in the former Yugoslavia. This was not a civil war, he argues, but one against civilians and their culture, a war against cosmopolitanism.... At a time of poor communication and increasing political control, Kurspahić's paper provided perhaps the last true reflection of current events. Kurspahi captures how Sarajevo blossomed, becoming ``an arena for popular self-expression,'' an antidote to the growing chauvinism and intolerance in other republics. In the chapter on the paper in wartime, Kurspahić deftly interweaves the personal and professional, creating a clear parallel between the enormous sacrifices made by Oslobodjenje's staff to keep the paper going and the heroic efforts of Bosnia's citizens to defend their homes, neighbors, and ideals. In the process, he presents the dramatic and often tragic struggles of colleagues, friends, strangers, and public figures. The war may be over and the country divided, but, Kurspahić asserts, a unified Bosnia and its culture will survive as long as the spirit of Oslobodjenje ``defends her essence and keeps faith with memory."
...DURING THE THREE YEAR SIEGE of Sarajevo one story stands out as a heroic example of journalism at its best. Sarajevo's only newspaper, Oslobodjenje (Liberation), besieged, battered, and under fire, never missed a day of publication. Its staff of Serbs, Croats, Muslims, and Jews were guided by their grimly defiant and dynamic editor, Kemal Kurspahić, who told them, "As long as Sarajevo exists this newspaper will publish every day"..... Kurspahić is a gifted writer, a journalist with a flair for style, clarity and insight. His story is not just newsprint. It is a story of men and women and a newspaper fighting for survival, a story of dedication and human spirit. The staff and reporters of Oslobodjenje endured the same dangers and privations as did all Sarajevo's citizens - hunger, thirst, disease, cold, snipers, shellfire, wounds and death. They also published a daily newspaper despite the Serbs' best efforts to blast them out of business.... Five staff members were killed and 20 wounded. Still, throughout those dark days, the paper survived and served (as it still does) as "the voice of multiethnic Bosnia." This is a thoughtful and compelling tale of the tragedy of ethnic war and of journalism the way it should be.