MOSTAR JOURNALISTS SALUTE SLAIN COLLEAGUES

Local journalist in the Bosnian town of Mostar pay tribute to former colleagues, Miguel Gil Moreno de Mora and Kurt Schork, who lost their lives covering the war in Sierra Leone.

By Mirsad Behram in Mostar

The news of the deaths of Miguel Gil Moreno de Mora and Kurt Schork in Sierra Leone has hit the journalists in Mostar like a bombshell.

The two journalists, who died in a rebel ambush last week, had both worked in the town at the height of the Bosnian war in the early 90s. They reported on fighting between Serbs and Muslims and later Muslims and Croats.

"We grieve the deaths of two colleagues who were in Mostar at the time of the fiercest fighting, providing the outside world with an honest account of the conflict," said a statement by the Mostar branch of the Union of professional and Independent Journalists of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The Mostar journalists were particularly affected by Miguel's death. With his camera he recorded every detail of the suffering endured by the population during those difficult years. "We all remembered Miguel," says Alija Behram, editor-in-chief of the Radio Television Mostar.

During the siege of the eastern part of the town - mainly populated by Bosniaks - the TV building, says Behram, was "a kind of a base for all journalists who came to Mostar to report. Miguel constantly asked questions, he was hungry for information so that he could grasp what was happening in Mostar. He was easy to befriend.

"He especially dealt with ordinary, common people, who were going through the Mostar hell, trying to survive, to get a drop of water or some [food] can."

Miguel is remembered in Mostar as a determined man, dedicated to his profession. The eastern part of Mostar was almost completely isolated by Croat forces from May 1993 to April 1994. Besides the everyday shelling, the
population was exposed to the shortage of food, water, medicines, heating, electricity.

Miguel often said that he found it difficult to reach the eastern part of the town. On one occasion, while attempting to pass a Croat police check-point he was beaten up and given a crew cut. He eventually managed to get into the town on his motorcycle. It took everyone by surprise. There were no other vehicles on the streets.

The residents of Mostar believe that people like Miguel and Kurt helped inform the world about the siege of the town and the destruction of the historic Old Bridge, which linked eastern and western Mostar.

Many believe their reports helped generate the public pressure which eventually forced the politicians to bring an end to the war.

"We will remember Kurt Schork and Miguel Moreno as good friends whose deaths shocked and saddened us," said a statement by the Mostar journalists union. "Dear colleagues and friends - the journalists of Mostar honour you and pay you their deepest gratitude."

Mirsad Behram is a journalist at Radio and Television Mostar