The basic reason is the lack of funding. With high circulation of about 13,000 sold copies, and low amount of paid advertising, Svijet lost its battle with high expenses. The management of the publishing house Oslobodenje, which had decided to launch Svijet in February 1996, decided to stop investing into the magazine. This was done partly because the expectation was that the circulation of Svijet could not significantly be increased, and partly because of the difficult financial situation in Oslobodenje which doesn't really provide enough funds to allow for long term development of a magazine such as Svijet.
Naturally, it also had to do with our editorial policy. It seems we hadn't correctly felt the pulse of the readers and ensured the sufficient interest in the public to support this type of a paper. Besides advertising, the readers are the basic condition for the survival on the market.
I would also like to add that, despite widespread rumors, Svijet was not supported by Soros or anyone else. The total funds for Svijet from foreign and domestic donations were less than DM 20,000, therefore less than about DM 200 to DM 300 per issue. I doubt that this is the case with any other media outlet in Sarajevo.
Of course, I share the blame for the low circulation of Svijet. Nevertheless, I would like to point out that I had been the deputy editor-in-chief only between February and July of 1996. After that I was only formally in that position.
The recent end of publication of Svijet probably isn't the last we'll hear of this magazine. It will not be published by Oslobodenje, but it may soon again appear on sale, this time as a private publication. As far as I am concerned, I returned to Oslobodenje daily, for which I had been also writing in the meantime.
There are rumors about huge losses incurred by Svijet. Are they true?
Naturally, there are some losses. I don't know how large or small they are, nor do I believe that they are huge. Svijet was a very frugal publication; salaries were lower than in most of other papers. Even these low salaries were frequently late, especially as far as our occasional contributors were concerned.
There are very important differences between these two weeklies, especially regarding their view of social and political processes in Bosnia-Hercegovina; the polemics are a logical result of these differences. I don't see anything bad in that. The only problem is that the polemics frequently slipped from well argumented discussions into a shouting match in which many insults and generalizations were exchanged. Neither Svijet nor Ljiljan are clubs of the most intelligent people in the world; therefore, anyone in these papers can be criticized for something.
The polemics between these two papers are not random. They are, in a way, an expression of intra-Bosniak discussions and divisions. For its part, Svijet has preserved too much of the old Communist outlook, while Ljiljan has almost ended up with the uncritical glorification of nationalist principles. Both papers could have done with more self restraint. Generally speaking, I think that for the political and spiritual health of Bosnia, it is necessary to find a balance between these two extremes. Atheists and Communists should rethink a part of their intellectual heritage, which hails from the Socialist era. Nationalist absolutists should, on the other hand, try to show more respect for the atheist ideas. I think that the bad blood in the polemics between Svijet and Ljiljan is the result of that mutual enmity: aggressive atheism on one side and dogmatic national-romanticism and vengeful theism on the other.
What do you mean, "vengeful theism"? The victims of brutal atheism and communism are well known. people were tried, jailed, ostracized only because of their beliefs. You do agree that there are no such victims of vengeful theism...?
In the period when atheism was an official "religion", for almost fifty years, the believers were persecuted. Sometimes, the punishment was very harsh. It is good that theism, which has won back its civic rights, is not seeking revenge and prosecuting its enemies as the previous regime did. The revanchism is visible in intellectual attempts to prove the supremacy of the theism where the atheism is usually branded as foreign to humankind.
It would be very costly if the theism wanted to return to the atheists in kind, and started persecuting and jailing them. Fortunately, that hasn't happened so far, and a lot of credit for that should be given to the tolerance and generosity of those who had been the victims of aggressive atheism before the war. For example, I was interested whether my colleague from Oslobodenje, Nagorka Idrizovic has had problems because of her articles about the trial of a group of Muslim intellectuals in Sarajevo in 1983. She told me that none of the people involved had tried to seek revenge. And many of them, including president Izetbegovic could have made her life difficult if they wanted to do so. Public prosecutor and the judge in the case also haven't had any problems. I believe that it will continue like that, because it would be terrible if the theism became revanchist to the same extent to which, until recently, the atheism had attacked believers, their privacy and basic human freedoms.
As an editor-in-chief, you were one of the creators of the editorial policy in Svijet. Why did Svijet, as many others, adopt the concept of ambivalence regarding the guilt for everything which had happened in Bosnia? Is that one of the reasons why the wider audience failed to accept the paper?
I cannot agree with your statement about the ambivalence regarding the guilt. Svijet has always consistently analyzed our present and recent past, always clearly stating who the enemies, aggressors and murderers of Bosnia were. I think that Svijet has published some of the best analyses of the policies and behavior of national and political organizations gathered around the Serb Democratic Party (SDS) and Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), which had been trying to tear this country into pieces. Since all of that has been published, it shouldn't be hard to find those articles, which appeared in almost every issue of Svijet.
On the other hand, some may dislike that Svijet, more than most of domestic media, has criticized the policy and behavior of the Bosniak leadership and individuals from that leadership. Nevertheless, that never boiled down to an attempt to draw a parallel between an executioner and victims, nor to the eventual ambivalence regarding the evil which had been done in Bosnia.
I don't think that that is one of the reasons for the low circulation of Svijet. The number of readers depends on the quality of articles. Unfortunately, Svijet didn't have enough articles which could draw the attention of the public.
Do you think that a law against blasphemy is necessary in Bosnia, having in mind that Svijet has published articles by Sead Fetahagic which brutally mocked the basic principles of Islam?
A state must protect the public from all sorts of public attacks on morality, which can too often be found in our press. Svijet has made several mistakes in that regard, one of them the infamous Sead Fetahagic's "Iftar pork rinds". Satirists, like Fetahagic, frequently slide into lasciviousness and blasphemy. We journalists can do a lot to limit the space in the media for offensive material. Instead of the state, this should be governed by the journalistic codex of behavior.
Ljiljan initiated one of the biggest scandals of this kind with its articles about mixed marriages. I personally was very hurt by underhanded and offensive attacks which came from your pages. I am glad that all of that ended up as an incident and that both Ljiljan and the author of those attacks later demonstrated much great understanding for the differences in our society. We can argue about everything, but even a most heated discussion can pass without a single offensive word.
The situation is pretty bad. There is a shortage of journalists, partly because of deaths in the war, partly because of defections, and partly because of departures. In the midst of this shortage of journalists, the Bosnian media market has embarked on a great expansion. There are so many radio and TV stations, periodicals and even daily newspapers. Unfortunately, all of them lack resources, journalists and editors, to produce a high quality product. Because of this, the quality of our journalism will be limited for a long time.
The growth of high quality journalism has also been limited by a human, civic dimension. Here, in Sarajevo, during the war, and even now, journalists analyze all events primarily as patriots. In other words, we are merciless to the opponent and very lenient to our side. This attitude was the direct result of physical danger during the war. It was indispensable for war journalism in service of the defense of the country. I think that many journalists contributed to the defense of the country.
Today, on the other hand, we must be more critical towards our side as well. We should keep our eyes open and try to be objective. I think that we've been slow to readjust ourselves and that in the majority of the media the wartime defensive genes turned into a pro-government editorial policy. Although many may not agree with me, I think that Oslobodenje is also insufficiently critical of the regime, the same regime which brands the paper as its worst enemy. Our leadership in Sarajevo has had a good time during the war: now they think that no one should dare question their policies, regardless of how harmful they may be. I don't see myself far from that pro-government line in the media. Because of that, I am afraid that our patriotism, which was very important during the war, doesn't destroy our professional dignity.
In a very short period, Dnevni Avaz has overtaken, both in circulation and influence, its older competitor, Oslobodenje. Why?
Oslobodenje is tired and exhausted. Its journalists have spent the whole war next to a typewriter. Our headquarters were destroyed in the war, and our legal status still hasn't been resolved. We've been in red for a long time. IN addition, persistent political accusations contribute to a kind of journalistic defeatism. I think that Oslobodenje hasn't been given enough credit for what it did during the war, let alone assistance which would allow the paper to pull away from the war nightmare. It would be enough if the paper's legal status were resolved: once the paper is privatized, it could try to get development loans. Many have shown interest in investing in Oslobodenje, but they usually give up once they hear that the state is still one of the owners of the company. Further delay of the resolution of this problem will result with a euthanasia of the publishing house which still employs the largest number of experienced journalists, although, because of the mentioned reasons, their products are not anymore among the best produced by the Bosnian journalists.
Dnevni Avaz was launched after the end of the war, when it was possible to work in more-or-less normal conditions. From the start, it was favored by the ruling party. Avaz boasts that their paper is distributed by the police and the Army. Naturally, such favors don't come for free. Dnevni Avaz is a very pro-regime paper, embraced by the ruling party and partly dependent on its finances. Dnevni Avaz is the type of a paper which Oslobodenje was in Socialism. I don't have a problem with that. Every regime has its papers. I only bothers me that Avaz claims that its exclusive information is the result of some sort of supernatural journalistic power, which is absolutely wrong. They simply have a monopoly with the ruling party regarding some information which draws attention of the readers. For example, a few months ago, Avaz published a report from a meeting of the Party of Democratic Action (SDA), which was closed for public. The report included the president Izetbegovic's speech. Other papers only received a terse press release. SDA is guilty because every week it selects papers according to its criteria; as a ruling party it shouldn't do that if it hopes to become a democratic party.
Because of the information segregation, I start every morning with Dnevni Avaz to find out what the government does and thinks. Then I take a look at Oslobodenje, to check what independent analysts think about that, and to what extent my paper, because of its unequal relationship with the sources of information, is behind those in a favored position. Naturally, the public has realized that Avaz has better access to information; consequently, Avaz has been wining over our readers. Nevertheless, I believe that this trend won't last long and that in the end copies of Dnevni Avaz will be used in offices for window cleaning, like the copies of the pro-government Oslobodenje in the old regime.
I must say that the director of Dnevni Avaz, Fahrudin Radoncic has so far demonstrated enviable managerial skill. Nevertheless, I think that he has made a mistake when he changed his profession; he should have remained a journalist. Before the war, he was a brilliant journalist and analyst of the political processes in Montenegro and Serbia; at the time both of us wrote for the Zagreb weekly Danas. Therefore, those who are trying to "enhance" some justified criticism of Avaz and Radoncic with attacks on his former work as a journalist are simply wrong.
In my opinion, Oslobodenje hasn't won most of its awards for its critical attitude with respect to the government, nor for the quality, but above all for the endeavor of continuously publishing a daily newspaper in horrible conditions during the siege of Sarajevo. Oslobodenje didn't need lobbying for that to be recognized, nor has it seriously tried to use those awards to boost its finances. Therefore, I don't think that we needed assistance from Boris Vukobrat, if he was involved in that, although I should say that I don't know who had nominated us for that award. In my opinion, once you start winning international awards, it goes on until the world public has had enough of you. Perhaps, all those awards have had a negative effect on the publishing house Oslobodenje, which in a way fell asleep on its laurels, from which one can neither live nor improve the quality of the paper.
In one of your articles, you wrote that it would be good for Bosnia if the new integrations in South Eastern Europe started functioning. Are you a Yugo-nostalgic? What do you think about that term?
Not only would those integrations be good for Bosnia-Hercegovina, they are indispensable. You see, the Dayton Agreements envisages establishment of special relations of a part of Bosnia-Hercegovina with Serbia, and the other part with Croatia, which is just another word for integration: of economics, culture, communications, and even, to a certain extent, a political integration. There are several threats for the statehood of Bosnia-Hercegovina in this. I think that the best counterweight to these threats would be to widen the scope of integration. I think that our Ministry of Foreign Affairs, actually its Bosniak part, shares my opinion. The fear from some new Yugoslavisation is not necessary, because we are entering the new process of integration from a different position than that from which the South Slavic nations entered two former Yugoslavias, the royalist and communist ones. Note how the post-Dayton Bosnia has clearly defined relations between its nations. Similarly, the relations between participants in those new integrations will be even more precisely defined, from the start. Those integrations will not be the result of somebody's pressure, but the result of interests of each one of their participants.
Yugo-nostalgia is a wrong expression for the support for Balkan integration. In general, it is a bad term which is used to disqualify political opponents, mostly because the suffix Yugo carries these days negative connotations in the local political discourse. I do not regret the demise of Yugoslavia. Once upon a time, I would get chills listening to the anthem Hey Slavs! [old Yugoslav anthem, retained by the new ("rump") FR Yugoslavia] before soccer matches; however, recently before the broadcast of the match between Spain and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, I changed the channel to avoid listening to the anthem.
If I miss anything, that is the good side of socialism, the system in which I was born and have lived the best years of my life. Today, we boast how our children quickly adapt to their refugee camps all over the world, that they are smarter than Canadian, Swedish or German children. The reason for that is in the high quality of education in socialism. Today, we have to pay for health care; soon we'll have to pay even more, while in socialism health care was free.
I could list more reasons for regret. They should be put on one side of the scale, and the bad characteristics of the socialist system and multinational character of the Yugoslav state on the other. Bad characteristics win because, if nothing else, some Yugoslavs from Serbia and Montenegro, without blinking, tried to exterminate some other Yugoslavs from Bosnia-Hercegovina. The frame of mind which led to some Serbs and Montenegrins trying to remove Bosniaks with help of arms produced by all of us together, took time to develop. These problems were suppressed for a long time and they confirm the unhealthy basis of the former Yugoslavia.
For a period of time, in the late eighties, you were editor-in-chief of the Yugoslav youth magazine Mladost in Belgrade. You were dismissed as an opponent of Milosevic's policy. Have you preserved contacts with Belgrade journalists? Do you have any information about the developments in the intellectual circles in Belgrade?
Five months before the infamous 8th session of the Central Committee of the Serbian League of Communists, I predicted Milosevic's intent to bring down Stambolic and start a nationalist attack on Yugoslavia. I was the first journalist in the former Yugoslavia to write that Milosevic is a nationalist. These articles can be found in the old issues of Mladost. Because of that Milosevic's men persecuted me, not only in Belgrade but also here in Sarajevo, where the leadership of the League of Communists of Bosnia-Hercegovina for a long time had a wrong opinion about Milosevic. Together, they managed to fire me in January 1988.
I was unemployed for six months, because no one dared to give me a job, and then the attitude towards Milosevic changed in Sarajevo and I was offered to choose a paper for which I would like to write. I chose to work as a commentator in Oslobodenje and haven't regretted that.
I don't have contacts with my colleagues journalists from Belgrade, nor do I know a lot about the intellectual life in the former capital of Yugoslavia. All I know, I've read in the papers, but even that is enough to understand that some great and intelligent men who have always opposed Serb fascism are still doing that: Bogdan Bogdanovic, Rade Konstantinovic, Nebojsa Popov, and late philosopher Zivotic.
These processes will take time. I used to know well Zoran Dindic, a brilliant intellectual and honest man. When he became a Serb chauvinist and politician sick with ambition, I started wondering whether anyone in Belgrade will remain immune to Milosevic's [nationalist] virus. Draskovic is an incorrigible Chetnik; it is not even necessary to discuss Seselj. They will rule Serbia for a long time. They will switch as leaders but everything will essentially stay the same; certainly, it won't occur to anyone of them to perhaps apologize, as Wily Brandt did, to the victims of Serb Nazi madness. Serbia is not rushing to its demise; it is already doomed, and will boil in that dirty cauldron much longer than even its worst enemies think. During the years of nationalist stupidity in Serbia, its human substance was spoiled. This is the main reason why I haven't tried to get in touch with my former friends from Belgrade, because they also succumbed to the policy which turned my Sarajevo to the biggest concentration camp in the world. It is easy to get over a hangover, but it is very hard to cure the cancer which has attacked the Serb nation. I am afraid that completely new generations will have to grow up and eventually win back a good reputation for the Serbs.
Could you briefly tell us something about the years which you've spent in Moscow. Were you in touch with the Serb lobby? Did they try to recruit you, because of your reputation and professional experience?
I spent five years in Moscow, between 1990 and 1995, as a permanent correspondent for Oslobodenje. It was a very exciting and difficult period. The war years were certainly the hardest. The most difficult problem was to survive in the conditions where I couldn't expect to receive a salary from Sarajevo. Nevertheless. I didn't bite the bait of my "friends" from the Serb lobby, which is very strong in Moscow and which offered financial assistance. I refused their offer to join in April 1992 the Tanjug's [state-controlled Yugoslav news agency] Moscow bureau. I am a Sarajevan from my head to my toes, and it never occurred to me to give that up. My family and I had a hard life in Moscow during the war, but now live honorably in our Sarajevo, unlike many others who at the start of the war became traitors. On one occasion in 1993, my best friend from college, unfortunately, infamous Risto Dogo, came to Moscow with Karadzic. I talked to him on the phone; he was talking some stupidities about holly Serb brotherhood and national traitors like myself. I realized that with him, and others who had become hard-line chauvinists and fascist, it was not any more a matter of ideology, but disease. Also, when, during my short visit to Sarajevo in 1991, Vojislav Maksimovic tried to secretly recruit me for the "holy Serb cause" I realized that these people had gone mad. He then scolded me for using too many Turkish words in my speech. Had they not inflicted so much evil on others, people like that should have been pitied.
Recently, you've become active in the Serb Civic Council (SGV). You'd been active in politics before. Before the war, you were a candidate for the representative of Bosnia-Hercegovina in the Bosnian [should be Yugoslav] presidency, when Bogic Bogicevic was elected. Do you intend to continue as a volunteer or will you become a professional politician?
The Serb Civic Council had an important role during the war in Bosnia-Hercegovina. It managed to defend the honor of a part of the Serb people who didn't succumb to the nationalist music from Pale [Bosnian Serb capital]. I think that Mirko Pejanovic has found a good form of action, which at the same time expresses the political mood of the Serb population which lives in the Federation and searches for the total political solution of the crisis in Bosnia-Hercegovina. SGV is also engaged in the protection of the civic and national rights of Serbs who live in the Federation. They are in many ways imposed and worse [than those of Bosniaks and Croats], starting with partial voting rights, segregation of Serbs in state institutions and in employment in general.
I intend to work as a volunteer in SGV. My work as a journalist fully satisfies my need for public and even political action. Among other reasons, I couldn't be a politician because I can't sit in one place longer than 30 minutes. And political work, if nothing else, demands spending a lot of time in meetings.
How much has the SGV been able to achieve?
Not much. Political decisions in Bosnia-Hercegovina are made by the three leading nationalist parties; more precisely by the three nationalist cliques. The force of the SGV is reduced because of the small number of Serbs who remained in the Federation, and because of the propaganda against this organization in the Republic of Srpska where the SGV has almost no influence. Recently, we managed to discuss with Izetbegovic and Zubak our initiative that all three nations should be constitutional nations everywhere in Bosnia-Hercegovina [according to the Dayton Agreement, the Federation is the state of Bosniaks and Croats, while Srpska is the state of Serbs]; we believe that this initiative strengthens multiethnic character of Bosnia-Hercegovina. Unfortunately, it is impossible to even get in touch with Krajisnik regarding this initiative. For him and other leading Serb ideologists, "federal Serbs" are traitors and converts to Islam and they would be happy to get rid of us.
How do you experience that, having in mind that you've been for a long time on the Belgrade-Pale list of the traitors of the Serb nation?
Such denunciations are not pleasant. They are an additional proof of the madness in the Serb national mind, actually its God given creators who do not accept other views of Serb national interest. For them, a nation is above everything else. I don't think so: for me the most important thing is morality. I am certain that in the last ten years which were marked by Serb destructiveness and crimes, moral dimension played the main role in the resistance of many Serbs to Milosevic's fascist concept of unification of all Serbs in one state. Besides preserving our personal and moral dignity, I and those like myself still did not succeed in preventing the spread of that dangerous virus through the Serb nation, a honorable nation which has in this phase of history, unfortunately, and rightly so, earned planetary ignominy. The Serbs can only blame themselves for that. I hope that the next phase will be marked by efforts, through confession of sins and correction of their catastrophic consequences, to try to win back the Serb national honor.
Translated on 8/20/97