The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network will hold an exhibition and publish a book that commemorates journalists and media workers who were killed during and immediately after the violent break-up of Yugoslavia.

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BIRN to Hold Exhibition Commemorating Reporters Killed in Balkan Wars

Illustration: BIRN.

BIRN’s exhibition, entitled Last Despatches, will open in Sarajevo on December 14 at a venue that will from next year host BIRN’s regional museum, the Reporters’ House, dedicated to journalists and media issues, the wars in the former Yugoslavia and challenges to contemporary journalism.

The exhibition is based on BIRN’s long-running online series Last Despatches, which tells the stories of journalists and other media workers who were killed during and just after the 1990s wars in the Balkans.

Some of the 155 people who died were foreign correspondents who came to cover the conflicts, but most of them were citizens of the warring republics. Some were killed while reporting from the front lines, while others were gunned down in the streets of their hometowns, or even killed in their own offices.

The exhibition will also serve as the launch for BIRN’s new Last Despatches book, which features 20 stories from the series, including the personal recollections of the families, friends and colleagues of those who were killed.

“These stories provide an insight into the work of the media in drafting the first historical accounts of the collapse of federal Yugoslavia,” said Marija Ristic, BIRN’s regional director.

“But this should not be considered an attempt to describe, document and explain the trajectory of the war – this is a collection of stories about journalists, written by journalists. It is a memorial for lost colleagues and a tribute to their work, but at the same time a reminder that we need free media to build free societies,” Ristic added.

The venue for the exhibition in Sarajevo will next year become a new museum and community space, under the current working name of the Reporters’ House. It will be the first regional museum in the Balkans to tell the comprehensive story of the break-up of the former Yugoslavia and the wars that erupted as the unified state collapsed.

The museum will offer a compelling, fact-based narrative but will not simply be a heritage venue for wartime history. It will also serve as a community space for journalists to gather and discuss the critical issues facing the societies of South-East and Central Europe, exchanging ideas with experts from outside the region about the development of quality journalism and investigative reporting and the role of media in conflicts and conflict prevention.

“Many of the challenges that journalists faced during the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia have enduring lessons for media coverage of wars. At the same time, contemporary journalism faces issues of propaganda and disinformation that have been amplified by the online environment and social media,” Ristic explained.

The Last Despatches exhibition will be on display from 12 noon to 8pm every day at Ferhadija 10, Sarajevo, from December 15 until December 19.

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