(Washington, DC--May 15, 2001) The independent media in Bosnia are the key institution reducing the power and influence of nationalist groups in that troubled country and thereby promoting national reconciliation, democracy and integration into broader Euro-Atlantic institutions.
That was the message two senior leaders of that media delivered to an RFE/RL briefing in Washington today. Natasha Tesanovic, the director of "Alternativa Televizija (ATV)", and Senad Pecanin, the editor-in-chief of the investigative magazine "Dani," said that the independent media is virtually the only institution promoting these goals.
Tesanovic said that her station and other independent media outlets in Bosnia face three serious challenges: the absence of other institutions of civil society that could help to support them, an economic collapse that means many citizens have little or no money, and government pressure both direct and via the discouragement of advertisers in the free press.
But she and Pecanin stressed that their balanced and objective coverage of the situation not only has helped to calm ethnic passions but also to force the government to behave better. At times, the people in power behave better out of fear of exposure. At others, the authorities do so because ordinary people view the independent media as their ombudsmen, a place they can appeal when the government ignores them.
Because of the difficulties they face, both said that their outlets would continue to need some outside funding as the independent media works toward sustainability. They stressed that the continuation of such funding is "the best possible investment" in stability and democracy in Bosnia.
Asked about a possible American withdrawal from the Balkans, each said that this would be the worst possible step because nationalist and extremist groups would be encouraged to reenter the political scene, undoing much of the progress the society and independent media have achieved over the last five years.