ŠTEFICA GALIĆ: From Wartime Rescuer to Independent Media Fighter
As editor-in-chief of NED grantee Tačno.net, one of Bosnia’s most important and unflinching sources of independent news and information, Štefica Galić and her staff are used to threats and intimidation by those who are unhappy with their reporting. Tačno.net’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 working to help others.
In 1992, as the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina broke out, Galić was a young, newlywed, amateur 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 1,000 prisoners, and established her reputation as ‘Bosnia’s Oskar Schindler.’
After losing her husband not long after in 2001, Galić doggedly pursued a career in photojournalism, a fitting tribute to Nedjeljko’s memory and to their shared commitment to defend the oppressed. She was also widely celebrated in her community for organizing literary events in which free speech and debate were encouraged, 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 uncompromising dedication to truthful reporting made her a frequent target of extreme nationalist aggression. She received frequent death threats, and survived brutal physical assaults on at least two occasions.
These experiences only strengthened her resolve: In 2010, she founded Tačno.net, which has grown under her leadership to become one of the most influential news portals providing critical and independent coverage of current events and politics in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the region. Tačno.net offers both traditional news and commentary, and frequently publishes texts on the wars in the former Yugoslavia and the process of post-war reconciliation. With assistance from NED since 2013, Tačno.net’s frontline reporting and responsible coverage of sensitive issues has helped the outlet build an impressive reputation as an independent voice in a region otherwise known for divisive nationalist discourse.
When asked in a 2018 interview, about how and why she continues her work when she is 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…[Tačno.net]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 Tačno.net as they continue their work to provide independent and accurate reporting in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Photo courtesty: Aleksandra Zaytseva