Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Bosnian Trainees Confront the Past

Reporters get to grips with some of the legacies of the brutal war of the early Nineties.
By Merdijana Sadović

Young journalists trained by IWPR and its local partners to report on transitional justice issues say this experience has enabled them to better understand some important issues confronting Bosnia’s post-war society.

Launched last December, Tales of Transition is a year-long project aimed at raising awareness about transitional justice processes in Bosnia-Hercegovina through the training a number of journalists to report professionally and objectively about related issues.

The project, funded by the Dutch government, is being carried out by IWPR and its partners the Center for Contemporary Art, SCCA/Proba, EFM Radio and the Center for Justice and Reconciliation.

So far, 15 young reporters and trainees have produced eight in-depth articles about issues, ranging from long search for missing persons to ethnically divided schools, relating to the consequences of the country’s 1992-95 war, one of the bloodiest in the recent history of the Balkans.

Six articles have already been posted on IWPR’s website and four more will be published before the end of the project in November this year.

All the published stories have been picked up by media in Bosnia, such as the Radio Sarajevo news portal, Bosnia Daily and Buka. In Serbia, articles have been republished by the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Belgrade and by the prominent news portals Pescanik and E-novine.

While preparing these stories, trainees traveled throughout Bosnia, doing research and conducting interviews with people of all ages and from all ethnic groups.

“This project, carried out by IWPR and its local partners, has provided me with additional education in journalism. While working on my stories I had to explore various problems related to transitional justice and had an opportunity to better understand some important issues Bosnia’s post-war society is faced with,” said one of the trainees, Ajdin Kamber.

“Working in the field, taught me a lot about investigative journalism, while an excellent team of editors taught me how to do proper research and how to structure my pieces well. Most of all, I’ve learnt how important team work is.”

Amina Milic, the author of an article on post traumatic stress disorder, PTSD, sufferers, said her impressions of project have been extremely positive.

“I had an opportunity to learn through practical work about things I had not known much about, such as PTSD and how much it still affects many people in Bosnia. Writing this story has widened my horizons and eliminated my own prejudices about PTSD patients. I hope I contributed to better understanding of this problem and made people in Bosnia realise that PTSD sufferers should not be stigmatized, she said.

Milic added that IWPR trainers helped her understand that an objective approach, good research and attention to detail are key to writing a good piece on any given subject.

“I’ve established a great relationship with my mentors and I’m sure the experience I’ve gained during this project will be very useful for my future journalistic work,” Milic said.

Another project participant, Mirza Ajnadzic, wrote an article about Bosnia’s youngsters who, influenced by the prejudices of their parents and local media, rarely travel beyond their entity's borders.

Ajnadzic, who traveled throughout Bosnia researching his stories for this project, said he learnt a great deal.

“I have met many people from various professional and ethnic backgrounds and I learnt a lot about the problems Bosnia - as a country in transition - is faced with. Most importantly, I’ve realised that I can contribute to solving some of these problems by writing about them and making people aware of their magnitude,” he said.

The next stage of the Tales of Transition will be producing six television documentaries based on the articles published by IWPR. The documentaries will be broadcast on national television, BHT1, and a number of local stations in September, followed by a series of round-table discussions.

Merdijana Sadovic is the manager of IWPR’s Hague tribunal project.