Grantee Spotlight: Tač, Bosnia and Herzegovina

As editor-in-chief of Tač—one of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s most important sources of independent news and a grantee of the National Endowment for Democracy—Štefica Galić and her staff have grown accustomed to threats and intimidation by those who are unhappy with their reporting. Tač’s uncompromising tone on sensitive issues of the recent past and vigilant scrutiny of public officials often subject its journalists and editors to verbal and physical attacks. Galić is well prepared to resist such tactics; Her personal story is one of a fearless woman who has consistently risked her own safety while providing a platform for often overlooked stories from the Western Balkans region.

When the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina broke out in 1992, Galić was a young newlywed and aspiring photographer who received ominous news: Local authorities in her native city of Ljubuški were carrying out mass deportations of Bosniak citizens to prison camps. Galić and her husband, fellow photographer Nedjeljko Galić, were not fooled by the government’s platitudes. It was obvious to them that their fellow citizens were victims of a horrific campaign of ethnic cleansing. While the rest of the world moved slowly to recognize and respond to the human rights calamity that was unfolding, Galić fearlessly leapt into action. From their modest art studio, the couple risked arrest, torture, and death by forging prison release orders for deported Bosniaks. Their daring efforts ultimately freed approximately a thousand prisoners, and established her reputation as ‘Bosnia’s Oskar Schindler.’ (Discover more NED grantees in Bosnia and Herzegovina.) 

Not long after, Galić lost her husband in 2001, but still pushed forward in her photojournalism career as tribute to Nedjeljko’s memory and to their shared commitment to defend the oppressed. She also was widely celebrated in her community for organizing literary events to encourage free speech and debate, a daring endeavor given the repressive political climate. Galić worked as a freelance photojournalist for various media outlets for nearly a decade, but from very early on, her dedication to truthful reporting made her a frequent target of extreme nationalist aggression. She still receives frequent death threats, and survived brutal physical assaults on at least two occasions.

These experiences only strengthened her resolve: In 2010, she founded Tač, which has grown under her leadership to become one of the most influential news portals  in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the region, providing critical and independent coverage of current events and politics. Relying upon authors of diverse backgrounds, Tač’s frontline reporting and responsible coverage of sensitive issues has helped build an impressive reputation as an independent voice in a region otherwise known for divisive nationalist discourse. The news portal will continue to publish stories that address the past conflict, but also tackles issues facing the region today—such as corruption in politics, radicalization, and xenophobia toward minority groups—while experimenting with podcasts and other new media tools.

When asked in a recent interview how and why she continues her work when constantly under threat of violent reprisal, Galić answered, “I often ask myself if there is any point in this. But I am angry because I can’t stand … injustice, fascism and nationalism … [Tač] is my everyday fight against them … We have a huge support from people that follow our work, but we also get threats daily, they come in form of insults and attacks of every kind. I am used to it. I am not afraid of those miserable people and their unjust system that persecutes everyone who thinks differently. I am not bothered with the questions of how long I will live, will they kill me or not, I live the way I feel I should live, within my moral norms, and no one will impose something that clashes with those norms. That is my freedom.”

The National Endowment for Democracy is proud to support Štefica Galić and her colleagues at Tač since 2013 as they continue their work to provide independent and accurate reporting in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Photo courtesy of Aleksandra Zaytseva. This article—updated on March 6, 2020—originally published on March 28, 2019. 

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