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‘It’s Up To Us’

Bosnia-Herzegovina--Drazen Huterer, 2014-2014 Jiri Dienstbier Journalism Fellow at work at RFE/RL's Sarajevo bureau.
Bosnia-Herzegovina--Drazen Huterer, 2014-2014 Jiri Dienstbier Journalism Fellow at work at RFE/RL's Sarajevo bureau.

The first Jiri Dienstbier journalism fellow reflects on his experiences reporting from The Hague and what he learned during his time with RFE/RL.

Drazen Huterer is a journalist from Bosnia-Herzegovina who was chosen as the inaugural recipient of RFE/RL’s Jiri Dienstbier Journalism Fellowship for 2014-2015. In addition to receiving multimedia training and the chance to cover a variety of stories with RFE/RL’s Balkan Service, as part of his eight-month fellowship he was also able to develop his specific interest in war crimes reporting with a visit to the The International Criminal Tribunal of the Former Yugoslavia. We sat down with Huterer to discuss how the fellowship experience contributed to his professional development.

RFE/RL: You had the chance to travel to The Hague and observe proceedings. What did you take away from that experience?

Drazen Huterer: I come from a country where there will always be three different reactions to the judgments about war criminals depending on their ethnic group. I wouldn’t go into the politics of The Hague tribunal, and I have my own opinion on some of the acquittals, but in general I think they have done descent work. It’s very hard to prove some things. For some people who survived the war there will never be clear justice. There will always be people who are unsatisfied. The tribunal has done a pretty good job, and now it’s up to us, to our domestic courts, to prosecute lower-level criminals.

RFE/RL: How did physically being at The Hague deepen your understanding of the tribunal?

Huterer: I also met other journalists and students there who were following the trials from the gallery. And I had the experience of seeing Radko Mladic in person, which was really strange because I had seen him on TV for years in Bosnia, but to see him in real life was a really strange feeling. He looks like a weak old man, and it’s hard to believe he could be capable of those crimes. I almost felt sorry for him. Maybe that’s the difference between us and war criminals, that we can feel sympathy and compassion. So it was a really powerful experience for me to have the opportunity to go there and see firsthand how this institution works.

RFE/RL: While at The Hague, you also had the chance to interview Lead Prosecutor Serge Brammertz. Do you share his optimism about the potential of the The Hague tribunal to not only provide justice to victims, but also foster reconciliation in Bosnia?

Huterer: I was really privileged to be able to interview Mr. Brammertz because just a few days after our meeting he was in Belgrade and he didn’t give any statements to the media.

Whenever any EU officials or representatives from the tribunal come to Bosnia, they all say ‘we can process, we can judge, but it’s up to you to manage the reconciliation.’ And it’s true. But more time needs to pass before we will see true reconciliation. We still live in this shell called nationalism, but the reason is that we have a country full of corruption and poverty. When we take away someone’s ability to provide for themselves, all they are left with is nationalism. When you’re hungry, all you’re left with is ‘my god is better than your god.’ Sometimes I think it’s a lost cause, but then I see the young generation of NGOs and journalists who are really working hard to achieve this reconciliation, and I still have hope. I think there is hope for us in the end.

Watch: Lead Prosecutor for the Hague Tribunal Serge Brammertz

Hague Prosecutor Optimistic On Reconciliation in Bosnia
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RFE/RL: What was the most valuable skill you gained during your fellowship?

Drazen Huterer: It’s hard to imagine being a journalist in this day and age without multimedia skills. This fellowship really shaped me as a multimedia journalist. Being surrounded by experts means I can only become better. I can now go to the field and create multimedia content.

RFE/RL: What’s next for you?

Huterer: I’m really honored to have had the chance to work with RFE/RL, so I would be happy to continue our cooperation in some form. My previous work before coming here was reporting about war crimes and how people cope with this tragedy twenty years later, and I would like to continue telling these stories. I think the human side of these stories is really strong and has a huge impact in my country.

--Emily Thompson