Kemal Kurspahić bigraphy, stories - Bosnian journalist

Kemal Kurspahić : biography

1 December 1946 -

Kemal Kurspahić (born 1 December 1946 in Mrkonjić Grad) is a Bosnian Managing Editor of The Connection Newspapers in Alexandria, Va., USA and Chairman/Founder of the Media in Democracy Institute, dedicated to promoting higher standards in journalism in post-conflict societies and countries in transition to democracy. He won broad international recognition as the Editor-in-Chief of the Bosnian daily Oslobođenje in Sarajevo, 1989-1994.Tom Gjelten, Sarajevo Daily: A City and Its Newspaper Under Siege, (Perennial, 1996)


Kurspahić served as Oslobođenje’s New York correspondent, 1981-1985. and became the editor-in-chief in 1989. In that role he led the paper through three battles for press freedom: liberating the paper from the one-party control, 1989–1991; defending the paper against the nationalist takeover and winning the Constitutional Court case for its independence in 1991: publishing every day during the siege of Sarajevo from the underground atomic bomb shelter on the front lines of the besieged Bosnian capital, 1992-95.Sarajevo Paper Defies War by Staying in Print, John. F. Burns, The New York Times, 7 October 1992 Oslobođenje and Kurspahic personally have received some of the highest honors in journalism and human rights for maintaining the culture of ethnic and religious tolerance throughout the terror of the siege.News From Sarajevo's `Daily Miracle'; Through Shot and Shell, Paper Hits the Street Every Morning, The Washington Post, 2 September 1992, Blaine HardenOne Gutsy Newsman, The Washington Post, 19 February 1994, Colman McCarthy

He was granted interviews with some of the most prominent international leaders including President of the United States Ronald Reagan, Secretary-General of The United Nations Javier Peres de Cuellar, the late Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and late Sri Lankan President Premadasa among others.

He has published articles in numerous international dailies, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The International Herald Tribune, The Los Angeles Times, Die Zeit, El Pais, Neue Zuercher Zetung, Dagens nyheter and other publications. He has appeared on programs such as ABC’s Nightline and Good Morning America, CBS’s 60 Minutes, The PBS News Hour with Jim Lehrer, as well as British, Canadian and German television.

He held lectures and participated in seminars at American universities, including Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Cornell, Stanford, Duke, Brown, American University.

In addition to living in Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia, as well as the United States, he has lived and worked as a diplomat in Vienna, Austria and Barbados and visited 60 countries.


He has published four books:

  • The White House in 1984 on the presidential elections in the United States (Oslobodjenje, Sarajevo, 1994)
  • Letters from the War, the first book published in the besieged city of Sarajevo (Ideje, Sarajevo, 1992)
  • As Long As Sarajevo Exists (Pamphleteer's Press, 1997)
  • Prime Time Crime: Balkan Media in War and Peace (US Institute of Peace Press, 2003).

This book was also published in Bosnia and Serbia, under the title: Zlocin u 19:30 – Balkanski mediji u ratu i miru (Media Center, Sarajevo, 2003, and Dan graf, Belgrade, 2004). He also contributed to some other books, including Why Bosnia?


For five and a half years, 2001–2006, Kurspahić worked for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, first as the Spokesman in Vienna, Austria and then as the Caribbean Regional Representative in Barbados, covering 29 states and territories. He was a Spokesman for the United Nations Signing Conference for the Convention against Corruption in Mérida, Mexico in December 2003. While serving in the Caribbean he worked with the regional governments, mostly on ministerial level, to promote regional cooperation against drug trafficking and organized crime.

Early years

Kurspahić was born in Bosnia. He went to elementary schools in Croatia and Bosnia, completed his high school in three years in Sanski Most, Bosnia and earned his academic degree from the University of Belgrade's Law School, while working as a freelancer since the earliest days in a high school. He was the editor at the Belgrade weekly Student during the students’ unrest in Europe in 1968 and then became sports correspondent in Belgrade and sports editor in Sarajevo for the Bosnian daily Oslobođenje. He reported from the Olympic Games in Munich in 1972, Lake Placid in 1980 and Los Angeles in 1984 and from the 1974 Football World Cup in Germany.

Awards and recognition

Kurspahić has received a number of prestigious international awards, including:

  • South Eastern Europe Media Organization’s Dr. Erhard Busek Award for Better Understanding in the Region (SEEMO – Vienna, Austria, 2003);
  • World Press Freedom Hero (International Press Institute - Vienna, Austria, 2000);
  • 1993 International Editor of the Year (World Press Review - New York);
  • 1992 Courage in Journalism Award in 1992 (International Women’s Media Foundation - Washington, D.C.);
  • 1993 Bruno Kreisky Award for Human Rights (Dr Bruno Kreisky Foundation - Vienna, Austria).

Oslobođenje, under his editorial leadership, won many awards including The Paper of the Year Award in 1992 (BBC and Granada TV - Great Britain), Freedom Award in 1993 (Dagens nyheter, Stockholm and Politiken, Copenhagen), Oscar Romero Award 1993 (The Rothko Chapel - Houston, Texas), Nieman Foundation’s Louis M. Lyons Award for Conscience and Integrity in Journalism in 1993 (Harvard University - USA), Achievements in Journalism Award in 1993 (Inter Press Service - Rome), Andrei Sakharov Award for Human Rights 1993 (European Parliament - Strasbourg, France) and others.

Personal life

Kurspahić is married to Vesna Kurspahić. They have two sons, Tarik and Mirza, and live in the Washington, D.C. area.

Living octopus

Living octopus

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