Aleksandar Reljić is a journalist and the editor of the documentary program of Radio televizija Vojvodina. His short length documentary “Kosovo Nazdravlje! Gëzuar!” gathers the representatives of the “sides at war” on Kosovo, asking the question whether shared life among Serbs and Albanians is possible. “I would probably never have gotten into journalism if it hadn’t been for the wars on Ex-Yugoslavian territory, and if that hadn’t been a frustration that had to be channeled in some way – otherwise I would have burst. And I was bursting. The only remedy and true therapy was when I took on this job that allowed me to channel frustration”, Aleksandar explains. “I never thought I could change the world, I never had that sort of illusion”, but at least I shattered my own prejudice and helped base the opinion that, in reality, regular people don’t hate. Regular people live their lives, and they’re only (and exclusively) victims of propaganda”.

You say that nationalism is “five times stronger than it was ten years ago”. Why is that?

Because it’s a universal phenomena. We have Trump and Putin, we have Orban and The Islamic State, general hysteria, threat and fear all over the world – fear of terrorism, of the other and the different. In today’s Serbia, which is acting like it doesn’t know where it’s borders are, which lost all wars it led during the nineties, it’s normal to have frustrated people, those who have a complex of lesser value because they’re constantly told about what they did. But if we faced that, we could move on. Unfortunately, the ones who did those things are still at power. It was amortized a bit between the year 2000 and 2012, when it was legalized and preferable again. I’m going to cite my friend and one of the characters from my movie, Isak Vorgučić, who explains that the international community gave up and, instead of democracy and institutions, chose stability, and how we cope in that stability, that doesn’t matter.

How is nationalism in the nineties different than nationalism today?

Those who were the main actors in the nineties are active again, and that reflects to the general atmosphere in the society. Censorship rules in the media which are under control of these nationalistic elites, so there’s not room, unlike the nineties, when there was a parallel world that functioned normally. In the nineties it was a different situation, there were official media that were under control, but also an alternative world that was let be. We could compare it to the social media today, but it appears to me that the influence of the social networks is such that it cradles those who protest.

In what way do the social networks “cradle”? 

You can spread your message from the comfort of your room. That, on the other hand, weakens the real protest, unlike the nineties when you had to get out on the street to be seen. The social media doesn’t affect the broader population, nor all the target groups. They have a limited effect. On the other hand, we have a tradition of 25 years of darkness. On the fifth of October, 2000, there was no great change. Milošević fell because he lost the wars, not because he led them, and that’s the core of the problem. Milošević fell, not his regime.

You say you’re looking for a story of an “ordinary well-meaning man, caught in the whirlpool of a crazy time”. That can evoke an emotion in the viewer, but how does one address the rational side and focus on the current political situation? 

These are complex questions… look: If you don’t run away from context, if inside this context you speak contrary to popular belief, you’re already halfway there. Exactly twenty years ago I went to Bosnia with my coworker Marina Fratucan to do a story about the two year anniversary of the Dayton Peace Agreement. How do we make a story about the two-year jubilee since the end of the war in Bosnia? We went to the village Rača, which is split in half – a part of it is in the Republic of Srpska, and a part in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. We called Jova to come to have a coffee at Ibro’s, and Ibro to have coffee at Jova’s. The problem is that we got the same response from both the Serb and the muslim: “Jovo is a good man, but their army, their police…”, “Ibro is a good man, but their army, their police…”. That, in my opinion, is the best image of something that’s supposed to be “the end of war” in Bosnia.

You said recently that ten years ago you could’ve gathered an Albanian and a Serbian soldier to sit at the same table and into the same frame, and that this is impossible today. How do you explain this phenomena?

They’re afraid. It’s not about them not wanting, it’s about the atmosphere in society, an atmosphere of fear. As soon as my movie aired it was attacked, to spread fear, to diminish the subject in such a way that it’s no longer a subject. They (The movement Zavetnici) managed to do it, because the media made a story about them, and not about the real story. The organization succeeded on that day, they got their place in the ether. They were interested in judging anyone who would try to show a different image of life.

How does one fight the warped images created by the media? 

By being persistent, no other way. Freedoms are won. Freedom never fell from the sky, it has to be won. That’s what people don’t understand. Radio televizija Vojvodina is an example: Something that had been build for five years – goes down in five minutes. To build, to achieve, that’s the hardest. You can lose in an instant. One careless thing and it all crumbles. And it’s never just on you, it depends on the society, the context, the wheel of history, everything else. However, giving up is the worst.

This text was written as a part of Divided Past – Joint Future project and it does not represent nor reflects attitudes and viewpoints of the European Union, its institutions and bodies. Responsibility for the information and views expressed in the text lies entirely with the author. 

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