Gjelten, Tom. Sarajevo Daily: A City and its Newspaper Under Siege. New York: HarperCollins, 1995. 277 pp. $24.
I suspect that few of my readers have any more experience than I have in being shot at, bombed, and similarly threatened. Hence, they, too, may be fascinated and overwhelmed by the courage and determination of the journalists of Oslobodjenje, the Sarajevo daily newspaper.
In fact, Oslobodjenje is primarily a vehicle for Tom Gjelten, correspondent for National Public Radio, to try to describe, analyze, and explain the ongoing conflict in the Balkans. Having covered the war in the former Yugoslavia since 1991, he focuses on the siege of Sarajevo from 1992 to 1994, but be reaches into the history of the region to set the stage for war. Nevertheless, his description of Oslobodjenje and the personal, physical, and ideological struggles of the reporters, photographers, editors, and other staff members gives the book a human dimension and makes it particularly valuable to journalism historians.
The staff of the Sarajevo newspaper have children, spouses, parents, brothers and sisters. They worry about feeding their families and whether their apartments will be taken from them in shifts of power. They drive ninety miles an hour down Snipers' Alley to get to work, hoping not to get shot. They slither on their stomachs across an open field to avoid Serb soldiers in order to spend a few hours or days writing stories or taking pictures. They spend as much time in bomb shelters as in the newsroom.
Take, for example, Gordana Knezevic, a Bosnian Serb and a senior editor at the paper, who finds it necessary to send her youngest children away to a safer home, while she writes for a newspaper which supports a multi-ethnic society in a bitterly divided community. …