The Programme Director of the festival ’’Sloboda narodu’’Srđan Puhalo spoke about the goals of the Festival, the freedom of speech and press, but also the gloomy perspective of the entire society itself.
Fighters, activists and advocates of freedom of speech and freedom of the press will gather at the seven-day festival ’’Sloboda narodu’’(eng. Freedom to the People), which begins on October 25, and the organiser is the Association of Citizens ’’Pro Educa’’ under the auspices of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Following the occasion, we spoke with the programme director of the Festival, Srđan Puhalo, who talked for Fokus.ba about the goals of the Festival, freedom of speech and press, but also the gloomy perspective of the entire society itself.
’’Sloboda narodu’’ comes on October 25. What is it all about?
The idea is very simple – to gather people who do not fit into our distorted reality seeing it differently, thinking about it and most importantly commenting or better say criticising everything that they think is bad in the environment in which they operate. Our goal is to use public space in those seven days to affirm freedom of opinion and speech and in that way “infect” as many people as possible with freedom. We will affirm courage, diversity, tolerance and respect for human rights in a sort of a different way, I would say.
The plan is to organise panel discussions, workshops and lectures within the Festival. Can you tell us a bit more about the participants?
The festival is planned to last for seven days and we will host at least 50 people who in their work, that is the things they say, write and do, affirm freedom in its best form and in the best possible way. Within the festival, we will bring prominent journalists, satirists, activists, writers and directors, lawyers, professors in various fields, cartoonists and columnists, musicians and comedians. Workshops are planned for students, whereas exhibitions, concerts, book promotions, panel discussions, lectures are planned for the general public. It is important to note that all these activities, in accordance with the very name of the conference, will be “free”. In order to realise everything we have imagined, we have had the help of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and I’m using this opportunity to express our gratitude.
The Programme Director of the festival Srđan Puhalo and H.E. the Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in BiH Reinout Vos: Actualisation of freedom of speech, freedom of opinion and freedom of the press is necessary
Who will be the ’’Guardians of the Flame’’?
The „guardians of the flame“ are all those who do not agree to think the way the government wants them to think and not only to think but to express it loudly and clearly. In Croatia those are Boris Dežulović, Ante Tomić, Hrvoje Klasić, Dejan Jović, Viktor Ivančić. In Serbia, Slobo Georgijev, Marko Somborac, Ivan Milenković, Miodrag Majić, Dinko Gruhonjić, Staša Zajović. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, Drago Bojić, Nenad Veličković, Dragan Bursać, Štefica Galić, Zilka Spahic Siljak. As I said, we will host more than 50 people who have something to say and who, in their work, prove every day that one can be free in the Balkans.
Freedom of speech and freedom of the press are part of the foundations on which the European Union is built. Are we free to say what we think in BiH?
I don’t know which dictator said once that one is free to say what they want, but he cannot guarantee that one will remain free after what they said. We are not in that kind of a situation, but when you talk a lot, something similar can happen to you. I see freedom as a matter of choice, i.e. no one else but you can restrict or give you freedom. Many people are frightened because they think that the consequences will be terrible if they say or do something that could bother the authorities. They base their power on our fears (of other peoples, of their repression, of change, of the future). Also, a big problem of today’s society is that there is so much talking and no one hears anyone from so much noise.
What is it like to be a journalist in BiH today and to what extent are the media free?
It’s easy to be a journalist, but it’s hard to be a good journalist. To be a good journalist, you need to have the support of the media you work for, but I am not sure that journalists are more important to the media today, than politicians, advertisers and other centres of power. To be a good journalist, you must have the institutions (police, prosecution and judiciary) that will follow through your writting and bring it to a close. To be a good journalist today you have to be prepared that when you write a good story, you will suffer attacks, and not just yourself, but your family as well, you will lose your advertiser, your wife or husband will lose their job, and maybe someone will wait you in the dark to show disagreement with your work by „direct democracy“. However, I think that all this is not an excuse for journalists not to do their job properly, because they themselves chose their profession, and if they do not want to do it properly, they should do something else.
Do you get threats and why?
Well, I’m not a real journalist and I don’t really face the threats and problems that real journalists face, the ones who write about money and serious crime. Somehow it seems to me that ordinary people do not like my writting, but that is to be expected if we know that I often write and talk about topics that are not very popular among the inhabitants of the Republika Srpska, although I am often a Chetnik if Bosniaks don’t like something. There are these threats like belittling, mentioning my parents, wife and children, but I’m used to it and I don’t worry much about it. There was also one lawsuit, but it turned out I wasn’t guilty. Of course, when a climate is created where you are a traitor, a foreign mercenary, Bakir’s advocate (the leader of SDA – a Bosniak party), and these days even Milo’s advocate (the leader of DPS in Montengro), then you try not to go in the dark, because you never know if some fool will jump you there.
How to improve the status of journalists and their profession in BiH?
First of all, journalists have to do it because no one else will. I think they lack solidarity, because they are so quarrelsome and divided that they do not pose a serious threat to media owners and politicians. When they begin to see themselves as colleagues, and not as Serb, Croat and Bosniak journalists, they will be able to unite and restore their own dignity and the dignity of their profession.
Will BiH, all its entities, cantons and municipalities ever become a part of a normal and civilised world and have you lost hope that you will live to see it?
Of course it will, when such a system becomes unsustainable. People are leaving, there is less and less money, and in order for politicians to have their privileges, they will have to change something, and that is the system, because if they do not change it, they will go under as well, and the goal of every parasite is to keep the victim alive.
Translated by D. Mišković