Bosnia and Herzegovina is a place much altered since TV Liberty, a 30-minute weekly TV magazine, began airing in 1996. The show debuted one year after a bloody war had ripped the country apart.
But Bosnians still live in a deeply fractured society with continued ethnic divisions among Croat, Serb, and Bosnian Muslim communities, divisions many blame in part on the sectarian media that has metastasized in the country in the post-war years. These platforms are habitually abused by politicians to promote bigotry and fear.
With programming focusing on problems faced by Bosnians from all of the country’s ethnic communities, TV Liberty offers an alternative. Each weekly episode consists of five personal stories --disenfranchised workers, people living in extreme poverty, people fighting discrimination, or a talented young person trying to change the country for the better.
Nineteen years and 1,000 episodes later, TV Liberty remains a crucial voice of tolerance and moderation in a media landscape where, like the land itself, boundaries are carved out along ethnic lines.
“Twenty years after the war, we have a situation in which journalists refer to politicians as ‘ours’ and ‘theirs,’ which is completely unacceptable,” said Marija Arnoutovic, the editor of TV Liberty and one of its five presenters. “This kind of mind frame prevents journalists from having the right kind of relationship with their profession.”
TV Liberty is broadcast on 35 affiliate TV stations, including the national public broadcaster, BHRT, and, according to Arnoutovic, is among the most-watched TV programs in the country.
RFE/RL Editor in Chief and Vice President Nenad Pejic, who was the director of the Balkan Service when TV Liberty first aired and was instrumental to its inception, says that though the topics covered by the program have changed along with the concerns of average Bosnians, the impact of TV Liberty hasn’t.
“Progress has been made in Bosnia and Herzegovina technologically,” he said. “But the same cannot be said of the socio-political state of the country. That’s why TV Liberty still has its hands full with issues that need to be dealt with.”
“We don’t differentiate between big and small stories” said Arnoutovic. “Anything that affects Bosnian people and impacts their lives is a big, important story.”