Kemal Kurspahić

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Kemal Kurspahić
Kemal Kurspahić
Born (1946-12-01) 1 December 1946 (age 70)
Mrkonjić Grad, PR Bosnia-Herzegovina, FPR Yugoslavia
Education University of Belgrade Lawyer
Harvard University Nieman Fellow (1994-1995)
Occupation Connection Newspapers Managing Editor (2007-present)
Media in Democracy Institute Chairman and Founder (2007-present)
UNODC Spokesman, Caribbean Regional Representative (2001-2006)
Oslobođenje Editor-in-Chief Sarajevo (1989-1994)
Notable credit(s) Award-winning editor, Four books, Op-Ed articles in major international dailies
Spouse(s) Vesna Kurspahić (1969–present)
Children 2 sons

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.[1]

Early years[edit]

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.


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.[2] Oslobođenje and Kurspahić 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.[3][4]

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 País, 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, PBS News Hour with Jim Lehrer, as well as British, Canadian and German television. 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.


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.[5] In the Caribbean he worked with the regional governments, mostly on ministerial level, to promote regional cooperation against drug trafficking and organized crime.[citation needed]


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)[6]
  • Prime Time Crime: Balkan Media in War and Peace (US Institute of Peace Press, 2003).[7]

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?

Personal life[edit]

Kurspahić and his wife Vesna have two sons, and live in the Washington, D.C. area.[citation needed]

Awards and recognition[edit]

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);[8]
  • World Press Freedom Hero (International Press Institute - Vienna, Austria, 2000);[9]
  • 1993 International Editor of the Year (World Press Review - New York);[10]
  • 1992 Courage in Journalism Award in 1992 (International Women’s Media Foundation - Washington, D.C.);[11]
  • 1993 Bruno Kreisky Award for Human Rights (Dr Bruno Kreisky Foundation - Vienna, Austria).[12]

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.


  1. ^ Tom Gjelten, Sarajevo Daily: A City and Its Newspaper Under Siege, (Perennial, 1996)
  2. ^ John F. Burns. "Sarajevo Paper Defies War by Staying in Print", New York Times, 7 October 1992.
  3. ^ News From Sarajevo's `Daily Miracle'; Through Shot and Shell, Paper Hits the Street Every Morning, The Washington Post, 2 September 1992, Blaine Harden
  4. ^ Colman McCarthy. "One Gutsy Newsman", The Washington Post, 19 February 1994.
  5. ^ "High-level Political Conference for the Purpose of Signing the United Nations Convention against Corruption" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-04-01. 
  6. ^ Kermal Kurspahic; Susan Sontag. As Long as Sarajevo Exists: The Editor-In-Chief of Bosnia's Leading Newspaper Chronicles... ISBN 9780963058775. Retrieved 2016-04-01. 
  7. ^ "USIP Books: Prime Time Crime: Balkan Media in War and Peace". Retrieved 2016-04-01. 
  8. ^ "Dr. Erhard Busek - SEEMO 2003 Award". SEEMO. 1946-12-01. Retrieved 2016-04-01. 
  9. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on June 9, 2011. Retrieved August 8, 2010. 
  10. ^ "International Editor of the Year Award: Previous Recipients". Retrieved 2016-04-01. 
  11. ^ "International Women's Media Foundation". IWMF. 2016-03-18. Retrieved 2016-04-01. [permanent dead link]
  12. ^ "Bruno Kreisky Menschenrechtspreis". Retrieved 2016-04-01.