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PROJECT ON ETHNIC RELATIONS


REPORTING IN A POST-CONFLICT ENVIRONMENT:
BOSNIAN AND CROAT JOURNALISTS MEET



Dubrovnik, Croatia
September 26-28, 1996


Preface

The media have played a key, and often destructive, role in the recentoutbreaks of interethnic disputes and violence in Central and Eastern Europeand the Balkans. The Project on Ethnic Relations (PER) has thereforeundertaken several preventive projects with media professionals from theregion.

In 1994, PER convened a meeting in Prague of media leaders from severalcountries to consider ways of encouraging fair and accurate coverage ofinterethnic issues.1 That effort led to the establishment of a PER MediaCouncil on Ethnic Relations, whose members have worked with PER staff onseveral projects: seminars for ethnic Romanian and Hungarian journalistsfrom the Transylvania region of Romania concerning the development ofprofessional standards for reporting in ethnically mixed communities; acontinuing series of bilateral meetings for the editors-in-chief of theleading daily newspapers from Slovakia and Hungary and from Romania andHungary; press monitoring of ethnic coverage in Romania during the 1996election campaign; and a seminar, again in Prague, for journalists from themainstream and Roma (Gypsy) media to consider the question of ethnicstereotyping and its impact on public opinion and behavior.

The effort reported here--a meeting of leading Muslim and Croat journalistsfrom the new Bosnian-Croat Federation and from neighboring Croatia--wasintended to explore how responsible journalism could contribute to thestability of the fragile new federation. Too late for prevention, thismission was one of healing: it brought together for the first time inseveral years former colleagues from the media who had chosen, or foundthemselves on, opposite sides of the ethnic divide during the wars inBosnia.

Although they were asked to focus their discussions on the federation andits problems, in the event the participants were drawn to consider a widerset of problems: the sometimes bitter struggle for media freedom as aprerequisite for democratic and peaceful societies, and the dauntingproblems that the media face in coping with political interests that treatthem as weapons to be wielded for their own ends, sometimes even resortingto physical violence to enforce their control. Indeed, in the end it wasclear that the specific problems in the federation are part of a largerpattern of opposing conceptions of the role of the media. Future meetingswould no doubt profit from the inclusion of journalists from other areas ofBosnia and the former Yugoslavia.

PER would like to thank the Inter-University Centre in Dubrovnikand BertaDragicevic, its executive secretary, for kindly hosting the meeting;Konstanty Gebert, foreign correspondent of the Warsaw daily Gazeta Wyborcza,for moderating the sessions; and Jasmina Kuzmanovic of the Associated Presswho helped to organize the meeting.

This report was prepared by Aleksey N. Grigor'ev, of the PER Princetonstaff, and was edited by Robert A. Feldmesser, PER's senior editor. Theparticipants have not had an opportunity to review the text, which is PER'sresponsibility alone.

Allen H. Kassof, President
Livia B. Plaks, Executive Director

Princeton, New Jersey
December 1996

1See the PER report, The Media of Eastern Europe and the Former SovietUnion: Reporting on Interethnic Relations, 1994.


Summary

This meeting provided an opportunity for working journalists from Croatiaand both parts of the Bosnian-Croat Federation to discuss the most pressingproblems in their work and the practical possibilities for futurecooperation. They discussed the issues of the independence of journalists inCroatia and Bosnia; the interference by and pressures from governments andpolitical parties in the work of the media; reporting on ethnic questions;taboo subjects in their reporting; and practical steps toward cooperation.They agreed that the predominant political culture in both countries isauthoritarian rather than consensual and democratic.

For many participants, this was the first opportunity in the course of thelast several years to meet with their professional colleagues. Thejournalists discovered they are not so different from one another, thatethnic divisions are less important than the differences between people whoare open to the building of a democratic society and those who supportvarious forms of totalitarianism, and also less important than the standardsof professional journalism.

They found, too, that journalists in both countries face the same problemsin their politically polarized societies. "Censorship by the gun" is still areality, at least in some parts of Bosnia. The immediate pressing tasks areto overcome the obstacles to a free flow of accurate information, freedom ofdistribution of the media across boundaries, and the ability of journaliststo cross those boundaries themselves.

The solutions to those problems often lie beyond the journalists' reach, inthe politics of Bosnia and Croatia and the policies of the internationalcommunity. Each side in the recent conflict tried to monopolize the flow ofinformation in its territory, and the participants asserted thatnationalistic political forces were still trying to maintain theirmonopolies.

Although some participants admitted that they had arrived in Dubrovnik in apessimistic mood about the possibilities of cooperation, many of themdiscovered during the meeting a number of small first steps that couldimprove the current situation of the media in this part of Europe andperhaps even prevent a new conflict. They exchanged their experiences ineveryday reporting and showed that professionals with different backgroundscan come together and discuss issues of common concern. As one of theparticipants put it, they were fortunate enough to have a chance to meeteach other; now they must not miss the chance of starting to work together.

(Note: In order to encourage a frank discussion among the participants, itwas agreed that no remarks would be attributed to individuals in thisreport, other than PER staff and the moderator. However, if the viewpointsexpressed at the meeting are to be properly understood, participants have tobe identified as coming from a specific city or country. In this report, theword "Croatian" refers to the citizens of the Republic of Croatia and totheir political and media organizations; "Croat" refers to ethnic Croats,whether they live in Croatia or in Bosnia and Herzegovina; and "Bosnian"refers to ethnic Bosnians (Muslims) and to the institutions of the Republicof Bosnia and Herzegovina.)


Introduction

Before the revolutions of 1989 in Central and Eastern Europe, Yugoslavia had a clear advantage among the countries of the region. It was seemingly about to begin a successful transition to Western-style pluralism and a market economy. The first free elections in the republics of the former Federal Yugoslavia were held at the end of the 1980s. However, in the 1991 elections, the nationalists were victorious, and they subsequently dragged Yugoslavia into a brutal war that destroyed the state and any hope of democratization and economic reform.

Many observers hold the media partly accountable for this tragedy. Biasedand one-sided reporting, it is charged, helped to create the climate ofpublic opinion that led to war.

In December 1995, following four long years of war, the presidents of Bosniaand Herzegovina, Croatia, and Serbia signed a peace agreement in Dayton,Ohio. The agreement established the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina,consisting of the Bosnian-Croat Federation and the Republika Srpska. Whetherand how this fragile peace will survive will depend in no small measure onwhether the media can reestablish standards of fairness and objectivity.

On September 26, 1996, the Project on Ethnic Relations (PER) broughttogether, in Dubrovnik, Croatia, journalists from the Republic of Croatiaand the Bosnian-Croat Federation for three days of discussion on the topic,"How to Get the Federation Going." The group was joined by members of thePER staff and by Konstanty Gebert, foreign correspondent of the Warsaw dailyGazeta Wyborcza, who moderated the discussions on behalf of PER. This reportsummarizes those discussions. It does not purport to be a complete recordbut rather seeks to capture the main themes of an encounter that was at oncetroubling and rewarding. Many of the participants had been on oppositesides, and indeed some had been bitter opponents, during the recent war. InDubrovnik, they were meeting together for the first time in many years. Thediscovery, or rediscovery, of their human and professional bonds was amoving experience. Yet the discussions also revealed the immensedifficulties that they faced in their efforts to reestablish free,independent, and effective media.

The discussions were marked by four main themes:

  • Political pressures on the media in Croatia and in the new federation. Theparticipants agreed that, on the whole, current trends were inimical to thedevelopment of free media.
  • The specific problem of Mostar. Although nominally a united city under theDayton accords, in fact Mostar is divided between Croat and Bosnian control.Journalists from both sides of the city faced particular difficulties ingetting information from the other side. The media tended to be ethnicallylimited and politically biased in favor of their respective nationalistcauses.
  • The role of the international community in building free and independentmedia in the post-conflict environment in the region.
  • The practical problems of reporting on ethnic issues: identifying anddealing with "taboo" subjects, the ethics of reporting about the "otherside," and instituting cooperation across the new boundaries.

PER's president opened the meeting by explaining why an Americanorganization would be interested in bringing together Bosnian and Croatjournalists. One reason, he noted, was that the United States seems to bepulled into European ethnic conflicts despite its reluctance to becomeinvolved and the dangers of doing so. The war in the former Yugoslaviashowed why it is much better to prevent such events than to repair thedamage afterwards. Finally, what has happened in the former Yugoslavia seemsto be only one example of a worldwide phenomenon of intergroup rivalry fromwhich few countries are exempt and about which everyone needed to develop adeeper understanding.

PER's executive director then spoke about the organization's particularinterest in the impact of the media on ethnic relations. The media shapeopinion today to an unprecedented extent, she said, and the responsibilityresting on the shoulders of journalists was therefore immense. It is firstand foremost a responsibility to use effectively the right of free speech.She also described some of the activities with the media that PER hassponsored in Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic in recentyears, and she explained the work of the PER Media Council on EthnicRelations, an advisory committee established in 1994.

The issue of journalistic responsibility was picked up by a participant fromZagreb and by the chairman of the session, who had learned his craft as anunderground journalist in the Solidarity movement in Poland. They stressedthat the media play a very important role in the shaping of any conflict.Journalists lost their innocence in the recent war, the Croat journalistdeclared; it is now clear, she said, that paper and words can and do causedeadly conflicts.

The moderator expressed his belief that, while governments had been guiltyin the Yugoslav conflict, so were the journalists whose writings had fannedthe flames. Professional journalists must understand that, no matter whichside they are on, they have an ethical responsibility for objectivereporting. They need to recognize that, whatever happened in the past, theynow have a common interest in freedom and independence for the media. Thatis the bond that should unite them.

Both these participants noted that, because of the divisions created by thewar, a meeting of the present kind would have been impossible only a yearago. The time has come for media professionals to try to repair the damageof the past and to consider what they could do to avert a repetition of thedisaster.


Political Pressures on Journalists

Several participants noted that pressure on the media in Croatia began tomount following the elections of October 1995. The elections showed that theruling party, the Croatian Democratic Movement (HDZ), was losing its support in the country, especially in large urban areas, including Zagreb, the capital. HDZ failed to get a two-thirds majority in the parliament. The opposition won a majority in the Zagreb City Council, but the president of Croatia repeatedly refused to approve its choice of mayor. This situation has been further complicated by the political and social fragmentation that had begun with the signing of the Dayton peace agreement.

One result has been increasing nervousness in the HDZ ranks and aconcomitant rise in authoritarian tendencies in the government of Croatia,and these have been reflected in attacks on the independent media.

One of the first targets was the independent weekly that calls itself theFeral Tribune. At the behest of President Franjo Tudjman, a case was lodgedby state prosecutors against the editor in chief and a leading writer of theFeral Tribune, charging them with defamation of the president. They becamethe first journalists indicted under a provision in Croatia's criminal codethat had been recently enacted to protect the reputation of top stateofficials at a time of declining governmental popularity.

However, on the day before the meeting began in Dubrovnik, a Croatian courtacquitted the two journalists. The judge said that neither the articles northe photo montage alluded to in the charge could be interpreted asdefamatory. The montage was obviously satirical, he said, and was publishedin the satirical supplement of the issue, while the articles merely madejudgments on aspects of political activity.

The moderator described this court decision as a very important positivedevelopment. "What does this decision mean?" he asked the participants."What are the implications for Croatia?"

A journalist from Zagreb agreed that the acquittal was indeed important, andshe added that journalists in Croatia had not expected it. However, shecautioned, one swallow does not make a summer; the decision does not meanthat the situation will soon improve or that political attacks againstindependent journalists will stop.

Actually, she continued, radio and television were the first targets of thepush against media independence, because the authorities realized thattelevision in particular had become the main source of news for the public.Croatian Radio and Television is now nominally a commercial enterprise, butthe state is the sole shareholder. The participant described Croatian Radioand Television as "a factory of lies." Meanwhile, such crucial questions asimplementation of democratic legislation concerning the media, an end tointimidation of the free press, and enforcement of a code of ethics amongjournalists remain unresolved.

As for the situation in Bosnia, two quite different assessments werepresented. One participant from Sarajevo declared that the Bosnian mediafunction under much more favorable political conditions than is the case inCroatia. There are no untouchable members of the government, and manydiscussions of controversial issues are published in the newspapers. In oneof them, in Oslobodjenje, a Sarajevo newspaper, President Alija Izetbegovichimself joined in.

However, another journalist from Sarajevo pointed out that on the day afterPresident Izetbegovic's contribution appeared, the "financial police"arrived in the paper's office and harassed the journalists. Anotherparticipant from Bosnia recalled that a state-run kiosk in the city of Bihacwas forbidden by government order from selling an independent publication.

Only the means, not the end, of political pressure on the media havechanged, said the journalist from Sarajevo; the state is seeking completecontrol over the media, especially the electronic media, and those inpolitical office are constantly searching for new mechanisms to achieve thatgoal. In the last analysis, a "censorship of the gun" is still at work inBosnia. Another very serious problem for the independent media in Bosnia isthe lack of financial resources.

This participant expressed the belief that the media in both Bosnia andCroatia are no less endangered now than they were during the war. Thenationalist groups that launched the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina are stillin power, and they still profit from the continued disorder, the closedborders, and the complete control over the media. He predicted that thespace for the free media would be narrowing and that the temporary financialsupport now coming in the form of humanitarian aid from abroad wouldevaporate in the next five or ten years.

He recounted an episode that took place in Bosnia and Herzegovina at theoutset of the war. Someone had painted graffiti on the walls of a postoffice in Sarajevo declaring, "This is Serbia!" The next morning a retortappeared, "Idiot, this is a post office!" Thus, said the participant, thewar was between those who saw only Serbia (or Croatia or Bosnia) and thosewho saw simply an institution that was supposed to send and receive lettersand telegrams and provide telephone service. The picture in Bosnia today isstill the same. People are arguing about whom the post office belongs toinstead of how it should function. He expressed sadness that there were manyjournalists among such people. If after four years of war the people ofBosnia have learned nothing, he added, there is no viable future for thefree media in that country.

This journalist also suggested that the reason for the favorable outcome inthe Feral Tribune case was not the personal courage of the judge but adecision taken at the very top in response to the pressure on Croatia tofulfill the preconditions for acceptance as a member of the Council ofEurope. In May 1996, the Council of Europe put Croatia's membership bid onhold partly because of a renewed right-wing campaign to silence the criticalmedia with a new defamation law, punitive taxes, and other forms of legalpressure.

A Croat journalist disagreed, saying that the court's decision had norelevance to the country's acceptance into the Council of Europe. He pointedout that the Croatian minister of foreign affairs had said that the firstcondition for acceptance was cooperation with the Bosnian state, not freedomof the media.

Another participant from Zagreb expressed the belief that the judge diddeserve some credit for the positive outcome of the Feral Tribune case. Sheemphasized, however, that, despite that outcome, censorship was still atwork in Croatia. Other participants added that the information systems inboth Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina are still very fragmented, acondition that allows political parties to obstruct the free flow ofinformation and to continue with their nationalistic propaganda. The mainparties are democratic in name only.

All the participants agreed that media professionals are destined to play akey role in determining whether there will be a heritage of peace or of warfor the next generation.


The Question of Mostar

During the war in Bosnia, the city of Mostar was divided into two parts, oneBosnian (Muslim) and the other Croat. The fate of all city institutionsfollowed the fate of the famous medieval bridge over the Neretva River,which was destroyed by the warring factions. Each part established its ownseparate municipal bodies. The Croat-held sector was declared to be thecapital of the Croat-held part of Bosnia and HerzegovinaŁthe self-proclaimedRepublic of Herceg-Bosna. Mostar became a symbol of the division in Bosnia.The Dayton accords provided for the city's reunification, and in thefollowing months, municipal elections were in fact held, and the slowprocess of establishing a united city administration began. Nevertheless,Mostar remains divided between Croat- and Bosnian-controlled sectors.

A Bosnian journalist from Mostar recalled that the division of the city wasalready visible by July 1992. There was no television, and there were nonewspapers from Sarajevo. Mostar was in effect isolated from the outsideworld. The city's media were under the control of Serbs and Croats from themountains. The main goal of the Croat attack on Mostar was to make the citythe capital of Herceg-Bosna. According to this participant, one of the meansby which this was to be accomplished was the elimination of the Muslim mediathere. During the war, ten to fifteen kiosks in Mostar that were owned bythe Sarajevo newspaper Oslobodjenje were seized by the Croat side andconverted into property of Slobodna Dalmacija, a Croatian newspaper.

The Dayton accords notwithstanding, the nationalist parties in Mostar arestill firmly entrenched. They continue to obstruct unification, to preservethe fragmented information system imposed during the war, and to carry ontheir political and nationalist propaganda. The present media war has theeffect of increasing intolerance. The participant suggested that the mediashould help people return to their homes and that they should join in thestruggle for a united Mostar, which was approved by a majority of the city'svoters in recent local elections.

A journalist from Sarajevo called to the participants' attention that thefirst "military" operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina was the offensiveagainst the media, which was conducted even before the war began. De factoseparation was imposed through the destruction of a large number of TV andradio transmitters, so that southern Herzegovina could receive only programsbroadcast from Croatia. The media in Bosnia thus became an instrument of thepolitics of intolerance. Sarajevo and the Croat-held side of Mostar arestill the centers of two completely separate media regions. This separationprevents journalists from meeting and sharing information--that is, fromsimply doing their job.

A participant from Zagreb noted that the Croat part of Bosnia andHerzegovina had been assimilated into the Republic of Croatia, using thesame currency, flag, and coat of arms. Similarly, the media of Herceg-Bosnahave been incorporated into the media of Croatia. Herceg-Bosna, like Croatiaitself, is under the complete control of one party, the HDZ. As anotherparticipant put it, there are no "national" parties in Herceg-Bosna;everything comes from Zagreb. If one is a Croat, one is supposed to thinkalong the lines of the HDZ. According to this participant, this ideology issimilar to that of fascism: one nation, one leader, one party.

However, some participants pointed to positive signs. A journalist fromMostar mentioned that for some time he and his colleagues had been attendingpress conferences at the office of the European Union in Mostar, togetherwith journalists from all parts of the world, including Croatia, showingthat professional cooperation was still possible. He expressed a hope formore cooperation between journalists from the two parts of Mostar.

A Croat journalist from Mostar asked his colleagues to be very careful intheir reporting. As an example, he cited the question of whether the Muslimpopulation of Bosnia should be called "Muslims" or "Bosnians." He said thatin his articles he uses the term "Bosnians," because that is how they arereferred to in the Bosnian Constitution. Neglect of such terms couldcontribute to a perpetuation of the divisions in Bosnian society.

Another participant proposed that journalists in Mostar become leaders inthe process of reunification and postwar reconstruction. Journalists fromthe two sides of the city should help one another in gathering information.This can be done only by professionals, not by political fighters onopposite sides. To fail to cooperate is in effect to become a part of theonly alternative: a continuation of the division and fighting betweenBosnians and Croats.


The Role of the International Community

The participants agreed that, although Bosnia's future will depend primarilyon internal factors, the international community can and should help. Sincethe end of the war, numerous international governmental and non-governmentalorganizations have launched projects in Bosnia aimed at rebuilding thecountry and its democratic institutions.

A number of these projects have involved the media. A Bosnian participantnoted that Bosnia now has more than 100 new media organizations, and all ofthem are dependent on foreign support for their survival. However, shecautioned, it remains to be seen what the outcome will be. One unfortunateresult is that almost everything seems to be under Western control: thecourts and the police as well as the media. In addition, many journalistsfrom Bosnia have left the country and settled in the West, while many of themost talented among those who stayed behind have been recruited by Westernemployers. Bosnia has become a kind of Western protectorate, this journalistasserted.

The chairman of the session added that insofar as these Westernorganizations were "buying up" good Bosnian journalists, they were hamperingthe development of a free and independent indigenous press.

On the other hand, as an example of constructive Western involvement, themoderator told the participants about the Media Development Fund, whichprovides loans (not grants) to print and electronic media, in Croatia andBosnia among other places. These loans are available to both private andstate-owned media organizations working toward the goal of an open society.He suggested that the participants apply to this fund.

The suggestion was met with skepticism by one participant, a Bosnianjournalist, who said that such a scheme might work in Croatia, but thesituation in Bosnia was very different. Bosnian newspapers would have no wayof repaying loans. Anyone faced with the choice of buying bread or anewspaper will buy bread. A Croat journalist was even more pessimistic. Hesaid that successful projects with the media in this part of the world werenot a realistic possibility.

Another participant mentioned that the international community spent$63,000,000 on elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina, yet there was absolutelyno impact on the media, which received none of the funds and remainimpoverished. PER's president said that the question might be one not ofmoney but of the seeming incapacity of the international community to offerreal solutions, or perhaps an absence of political will. It is easier todispense funds than to devise programs that will assure their effective use.


Reporting on Ethnic Issues

Almost all the participants agreed that there were numerous self-constraintsand taboo subjects in their reporting, including war crimes committed bytheir own side and the role of the churches in inciting ethnic warfare. Aparticipant from Sarajevo confessed that he does not write about themujahedins' participation in the war. The way his publication covers thisand other delicate issues is by reprinting articles from abroad withouttaking responsibility for them.

The moderator suggested that the journalists of Bosnia might write storiesabout the obstacles to their reporting, about how and why it was notpossible to cover certain subjects in the press. The suggestion was receivedwith interest by the participants. The moderator went on to say that themost difficult subjects to write about were the ones the readers did notwant to read about. Newspapers in Central and Eastern Europe have no probleminvestigating the government, the mafia, or privatization. Problems arisewhen a paper starts publishing articles about racism in the majoritypopulation or attitudes toward the Roma (Gypsies). Supposedly liberal anddemocratically oriented readers start calling the paper to complain thatthey do not want to read about such things and will stop buying thenewspaper if it continues to publish articles on such themes.

Several Croatian journalists responded that the situation in Croatia, andespecially in Bosnia, was different from that in the rest of Europe becauseof the strong political pressures, the very small circulation of mostnewspapers, and the high proportion of illiterates in the population.

The chairman of the session took note of the general pessimism among theparticipants, many of whom had expressed the opinion that the problemsBosnia and Croatia faced seemed impossible to solve. He asked thejournalists to be realistic and demand what was already possible. Opinionmakers in other countries of Central and Eastern Europe had worked insocieties ruled by Communist parties and the military, supported by one ofthe world's two nuclear superpowers. In 1985, they seemed to have no hope,yet their experience shows that the impossible sometimes happens. One has towork for the development of independent reporting. The Dayton accords meannothing if they do not end the war among the journalists. Are Bosnian andCroat journalists colleagues or enemies? The problem is less one ofcensorship than of self-censorship. Journalists should not be afraid towrite the truth because it is going to hurt their cause, nor should they bereluctant to investigate their own side's wrongdoing.

The moderator proposed a number of ways to improve the situation. Given thatthe Bosnian journalists know the real situation, even an incomplete storywritten by them, as domestic professional journalists, would be a hundredtimes more powerful than one done by foreigners. Any kind of cooperation ofthe media across the boundary lines would help.

He proposed that the Croatian newspaper Novi List and the BosnianOslobodjenje publish a joint issue, but the proposal was met withskepticism. A journalist from Novi List remarked that the concepts of thesenewspapers are completely different, and a participant from Sarajevo addedthat their concepts of Bosnia and Herzegovina were different as well.Another journalist from Bosnia proposed instead Bosnian and Croat newspapersbe sold in each other's countries.


Practical Steps and Conclusions

The meeting produced no agreement or final document. However, during thediscussion a number of participants suggested possibilities for practicalcooperation among them. These included exchanges of information withinBosnia and between Bosnia and Croatia, the establishment of informationnetworks, midcareer training of journalists, improvement oftelecommunication links, and professional solidarity among the journalists.

Several participants pointed to the need for exchanges of informationbetween Zagreb and Sarajevo, as well as between those cities and Belgrade.Journalists from different parts of the former Yugoslavia worked togetherbefore the war, but the region has changed radically since then. The formerYugoslavia is now five different countries, most of them hostile or at bestindifferent to one another. There is no media cooperation.

Within Bosnia itself, the situation is even worse. To get information fromthe Republika Srpska, a journalist from Sarajevo has to call Banja Luka viaParis.

However, some initial steps toward cooperation have been taken. A journalistfrom Zagreb called attention to the Alternative Information Network (AIM),which supplies, gathers, and exchanges information among journalists in allthree parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina and seeks to institute networkingamong them. However, a participant from Sarajevo informed the group that theEuropean Union, the main sponsor of AIM, is ending its financial support forthe network--200,000 ECU annually--at the beginning of January 1997. Heasked PER to use its contacts with the major European internationalorganizations in order to help find money to continue the work started byAIM. PER's president promised to contact representatives of the EU regardingthis matter on behalf of the participants at the present meeting.

A Croat journalist from Mostar asked that the international community buy atleast a hundred copies of each Mostar newspaper and distribute them at thecity council or the EU office in Mostar. He said this would be a sort offinancial guarantee for the media in the city. His colleague from the otherside of the Neretva River supported him. There are readers who will readthese newspapers. A good indication of this potential market is that peopleon both sides watch both Sarajevo and Zagreb TV. Newspapers from both sidesmust reach not only the general population but, even more important, thepoliticians from different parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Participants also mentioned problems of poor telephone links and the highcost or even complete lack of e-mail, Internet connections, and computerequipment. However, the main problem is the absence of personal contacts.

Assessing the discussion, a Bosnian participant declared that it had openedhis eyes and changed his attitudes toward Croat journalists, especiallythose from the state-run media. He said that he had discovered that hisCroat colleagues were professional journalists like himself, craving freedomof the press.

PER's president remarked that there is a need for professional solidarityamong the journalists of the former Yugoslavia. This meeting had shown thatjournalists from opposite sides can come together and talk professionallyabout real problems. He expressed PER's readiness to help to keep thisdialogue going. He and PER's executive director encouraged the journaliststo stay in touch with each other. In response, a journalist from Sarajevoproposed creating a professional association or network of journalists fromBosnia and Herzegovina. He said that a very important result of this meetinghad been getting to know each other better. Perhaps the conversations hadnot been easy going at times, but they had made a very good beginning.


List of Participants

MOSTAR

Alija Behram, RTV Mostar

Pejo Gasparevic, HINA (Croatian Information Agency)

Veso Vegar, Slobodna Dalmacija

SARAJEVO

Zlatko Dizdarevic, Svijet

Emir Habul, Oslobodjenje

Snjezana Mulic, Dani

Drazena Peranic, AIM (Alternative Information Network)

WARSAW

Konstanty Gebert, Gazeta Wyborcza

ZAGREB

Sanja Despot, Novi List

Nino Djula, Novi List

Jasmina Kuzmanovic, Associated Press

Jelena Lovric, free-lance journalist

Ivan Sabic, Vjesnik

PROJECT ON ETHNIC RELATIONS

Allen H. Kassof, President

Livia B. Plaks, Executive Director

Aleksey N. Grigor'ev, Program Associate