Oslobodjenje Back at Kiosks
28 May 2001
SARAJEVO, Bosnia--The prominent Sarajevo Oslobodjenje daily resumed
publication on 24 May, after a deal was clinched with the supervisory board
representing shareholders and with the Slovenian majority shareholder, with
journalists declaring victory. The daily had stopped publishing on 20 May for
the first time in 58 years of existence following a failure by the management
and its striking employees to agree on a number of issues.
“We have dethroned some systems of thinking that there were gods in journalism.
We have dethroned a myth that a newspaper can survive without journalists,”
journalist Hajdar Arifagic told TOL on 23 May. Arifagic has been with
Oslobodjenje for the past 30 years.
The employees began their strike on 17 May to protest April wages that were
late--and threatened to be cut by 20 percent. Management’s failure to deliver
a requested report on overdue salaries owed to workers over past years was
another stumbling block.
The Oslobodjenje journalists turned out a paper every day during the 43-month
long siege of Sarajevo in 1992-95, even when the Oslobodjenje office building
was reduced to a heap of rubble by Bosnian Serb separatists’ shells. The paper
won 15 international awards for its effort to keep the ideal of independent
journalism alive in war-torn Bosnia. The paper faced difficulties after the war
when its sales fell to one quarter of the pre-war level.
“For six years since the end of the Bosnian war, we have been waiting
patiently for economic and financial stabilization and normalization in the
company, asking for nothing else than normal conditions, so we could finally
carry out our duties and jobs with dignity and professionalism,” the
Oslobodjenje Trade Union said in a press release on 21 May.
The requests of strikers were met, journalist Antonio Prlenda, told a news
conference, adding that he believed Oslobodjenje would become a much better
paper. Prlenda is the Oslobodjenje trade union leader.
According to the agreement, a new management and a supervisory board would be
appointed by the end of June, while the employees were promised to get their
salaries without cuts, as well as the reports on their overdue pay-checks.
Leading Oslobodjenje journalist Senka Kurtovic was appointed acting editor in
chief after former Mirko Sagolj resigned from the position on 19 May.
Oslobodjenje was privatized earlier this year, but the workers said they were
not informed about the details of the purchase by a Slovenian strategic partner,
nor were they informed about their own position in the ownership structure.
The strike of the oldest Bosnian daily shook the journalistic community in the
Balkan country. Oslobodjenje workers were supported by the journalistic
independent trade unions from Bosnia, Croatia, and Slovenia, as well as by the
International Federation of Journalists.
Oslobodjenje journalists have won what they called a battle for their basic
labor rights. “Now they have to prove that they are able to make a better and
more professional Oslobodjenje than it was,” an editor with the Sarajevo-based
independent weekly Dani told TOL.
--by Daria Sito