Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change
IWPR's special report Calls for War Memorials Divide Bosnia was widely republished in the region, with local editors and politicians viewing the piece as an important contribution to the transitional justice debate.
This special report, written by IWPR reporters in The Hague and Sarajevo, Rachel Irwin and Velma Saric, examined the controversies around attempts to commemorate victims of the Bosnian war.
All over Bosnia, the sites of atrocities often lack any kind of formal memorial to commemorate them. This report explores why the issue of memorials is so divisive; whether memorials should be regulated by law; and what purpose they actually serve - to both survivors and the broader community.
In addition to dozens of international news portals and websites - such as the Institute for Genocide, the United Nations Institute for Training and Research, and International Center for Transitional Justice - the report was republished by all the relevant electronic newspapers and news sites in Bosnia and Serbia, thus reaching millions of readers throughout the region.
Aleksandar Trifunovic, the editor-in-chief of the most popular news portal in Republika Srpska, http://www.buka.com/, said that IWPR selected “a perfect topic for this report”.
“It is necessary to talk about the issues related to transitional justice, including memorials to the victims of the past war, to make people aware of the complexity of these problems,” he said.
Explaining why he decided to republish the report on his website, Trifunovic said, “Even though this is not necessarily a subject the audience in Republika Srpska would like to read about, it is our job as the media organisation to educate them, and to deal with this and similar issues as much as possible.”
Kenan Efendic, the editor-in-chief of the very popular website http://www.radiosarajevo.ba/ , said one of the reasons why he republished the report is the fact that “the issue of war memorials in Bosnia has been examined from several different angles, and views of a great number of people interviewed for this report have been presented”.
“Since the end of Bosnia's 1992-95 war, the media in the region has lacked objectivity and professionalism. For independent media outlets, such as ours, it's been very difficult to attract audiences with reports that are not based purely on sensationalism, but we haven't given up. That is why we decided to republish IWPR's report on memorials,” he explained.
According to Faruk Boric, the editor-in-chief of the most popular news portal in Bosnia, http://www.sarajevo-x.com/, which also picked up the IWPR report, the country cannot move forward before it faces up its past.
“We have to confront all the traumas from our recent past, and that has been pointed out really well in this report,” Boric said.
“By publishing such articles, the media can take an active role in helping the processes of transitional justice in this country.”
Zarka Radoja, a journalist with the most popular electronic newspaper in Serbia, E-Novine, said, “ IWPR's report tackled some issues that people in Serbia have been avoiding for years, such as denial that war crimes happened and that victims of those crimes have to be commemorated.”
Radoja said that E-Novine republished the report because it's “balanced and well written and deals with the subject which the mainstream media in Serbia simply ignores”.
“The reports like this one help fight the widespread belief that the events from the recent past should be forgotten,” Radoja said. “Unfortunately, Serbian society still doesn't seem to be ready to face up its past.”
A few days after it was published, the report was presented at a regional conference on memorials and remembrance, held in Sarajevo on December 8-10. The conference was organised by the United Nations Development Programme, UNDP, the International Commission on Missing Persons, ICMP, Bosnia’s ministry for human rights and refugees, and the Swiss embassy in Bosnia.
Saliha Djuderija, the assistant minister for human rights and refugees – a body involved in developing the country's strategy on transitional justice – took note of IWPR's suggestions made at the conference about the protection of war crimes sites from destruction until a state law on memorials is adopted, adding that her ministry would support this initiative.
Djuderija also said the special report was “without a doubt, very useful and can contribute to a public discussion on this highly complex issue”. She described it as ”very objective and helpful for the process of transitional justice in Bosnia”.
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