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RFE/RL’s Balkan Service Turns 20

An image of RFE/RL journalists gathered around a table for the broadcast of the Balkan Service Certificate of Recognition Ceremony
Jan Kaiser (RFE/RL)

RFE/RL’s Balkan Service has been presented with a Certificate of Recognition by the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), marking 20 years since its first broadcast to war-torn Yugoslavia in January 1994.

“I don’t know if the phrase ‘punching above your weight’ is well known,” said Governor Matthew Armstrong, representing the BBG at the February 27 event, “but I think it is really appropriate, because the effectiveness and resonance of your reporting is tremendous. The 20th anniversary of the Balkan Service is part of the incredible story that is RFE/RL.”

Then as now, listeners of all ethnicities turn to the Balkan Service for accurate, principled reporting that engages audiences and encourages dialogue and understanding among the still-divided communities. The service is unique in uniting reporters representing the region’s ethnic mix in one organization, and reports in Albanian, Bosnian, Croatian, Macedonian, Montenegrin, and Serbian.

RFE/RL President and CEO Kevin Klose, who served previously as the company’s president in 1994 when the South Slavic Languages Service, as it was then known, was founded, spoke at the ceremony about the enduring importance of the service’s work.

“You found voices through the ether in the former Yugoslavia, to prove that Serbs, Croatians, and Bosnians could easily and naturally share the same microphone and treat each other with regard and respect.”

The Balkan Service has grown over the years, and now broadcasts on radio, TV, and Internet platforms to Bosnia, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, and Kosovo, with over 150 affiliate stations carrying their programs.

The bureau chiefs in Sarajevo, Belgrade, Podgorica, Skopje, and Pristina participated in the event by conference call, joining RFE/RL Balkan Service Director Gordana Knezevic and her Prague team.

IBB Deputy Director Jeff Trimble also attended the event.