Understanding SEE

With mixed messages about South-east Europe, the media must play right role

Following an excerpt from Mr. Bergant’s acceptance speech for the Dr. Erhard Busek SEEMO Award 2009 for Better Understanding

The Alpe Adria project, founded in 1983 and still Europe’s oldest trans-border radio and TV project still in operation, has been the first in search of new methods to overcome the ideological and political barriers and resentments in South-east Europe. A result of this venture was to establish an ongoing cross-border dialogue about our truths and interests, not as self-interest or one-against-the-other.

This led to the first Austro-Slovenian TV documentary of Slovenes living in Carinthia, which was realized by the unforgettable ORF journalist and writer, Hellmut Andics (1922 – 1998) and myself under the very meaningful title Two is More than One (1980). At that time, for the first time the blunt truth was documented on both sides of the border.

In my entire professional life as a journalist, I have exclusively focused on foreign policy. However, minority questions have always caught my attention. I am both proud and sad that I am also someone from the Balkans. For me, this has always been the synonym of a magical creative force – a major opportunity for those who are longing for a bright future, but always seems to be caught up by a tragic past.

Therefore, allow me to underline just one thing: the ethnic cleansing of the 1990s was partly sparked by a biased media, which has been influenced by hatred-driven politics and subject to unprofessional attitudes.

The massacre of Srebrenica in July 1995, for instance, has become a symbol of such hatred; but let us not forget that the same happened four decades prior. Consequently, it is most frightening to realize that history has not taught us a lesson.

An independent, developed, unyielding and responsible media is the most effective tool for maintaining democracy and peace. Therefore, let me invite everyone to make special continuous efforts to prevent a hegemonic power from manifesting in the region.

This is especially true for public broadcasting media whose existence and development is still repeatedly under threat. Let us make a special effort for their technological progress. The dark forces of the past and present require darkness. They can only be discouraged by light. Cross-border understanding within and all-encompassing assistance for public media is undoubtedly the strongest guarantee for peace and prosperity in the Balkans.


Boris Bergant is a journalist, broadcasting researcher, and Adviser to the Director General for International Relations and Projects, Radio-TV Slovenia. He is the newest recipient of the Dr. Erhard Busek SEEMO Award 2009 for Better Understanding in South-east Europe.
The Vienna-based South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is a regional media organisation and an affiliate of the International Press Institute (IPI): www.seemo.org

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