By Maj. Richard C. Sater
First published in
SFOR Informer#122, September 19, 2001
His name is Mirko. He likes music and movies.
That's him in the baggy jeans and baseball cap. He could be any
other teenager - and that's exactly the point.
gives a face to a magazine named after him, a monthly publication
specifically targeted to teenagers in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH).
The glossy, colorful pages include interviews with celebrities
(singers, writers, film stars), both national and international,
Britney Spears side by side with Boris Maric, a young poet from
Brcko. Fashion, sports, films, the pop charts, reader letters
just like any other teen magazine.
In the upper left-hand corner of the cover, however, is the familiar
blue and white logo of the Stabilisation Force. A small box placed
discreetly inside the magazine tells the rest of the story: published
by NATO's Psychological Operations Task Force, Supreme Headquarters
Allied Powers, Europe.
So what is SFOR doing in the magazine business?
Mirko is indeed sponsored by SFOR - written, produced, and distributed
for free throughout BiH. The magazine is a tool, and a very effective
one. A quick look at the contents reveals the subtle message:
we share common interests, and we can get along. Tolerance is
a key message, and Mirko is a forum aimed at a specific audience.
With a monthly circulation of 160,000, the publication has a devoted
readership. Three versions are published each month; 90 percent
of the run is Serbo-Croatian, with half printed in the Roman alphabet
and half in cyrillic. The third version alternates each month
between English and German.
The current editor, German Chief Master Sgt. Ingo Kulot, will
spend the next six months at the helm of Mirko from its office
at Camp Butmir, Sarajevo. The staff also includes two bilingual
writers, Ivana Stipic and Damir Duran. Approximately two-thirds
of the magazine's copy is locally written, with the remainder
done in Germany.
In addition to music, movies, and sports, the staff writes about
"everyday young people." Their lives, what they do -
positive examples of how they take initiatives to get things done.
Examples of co-operation and multi-ethnic tolerance," Duran
says. Reader feedback is important as well; many boys and girls
write to their friend Mirko with suggestions about what they'd
like to see in his pages.
The name of the magazine has no special significance - it's simply
a boy's name - but "Mirko" was chosen because the name
is common to all three of the primary ethnic groups in Bosnia:
Bosnian-Croats, Bosnian-Serbs and Bosniacs. "We try to speak
the language of young people; 13 to 18 is our target audience,"
Drafting stories is the easy part. Artwork and design, however,
are sometimes problematic. The production crew takes care to be
all-inclusive, never to offend. The approval process for articles,
photos, and layout is a painstaking but essential step in the
production each month. "It's a bit tricky, but this is what
we're trained for." Once the issue has been approved for
release, it is printed in Sarajevo and readied for distribution.
The magazine has enviable name recognition. "It's estimated
that 89 percent of the young people know it," Kulot says
with pride. "That's something no other magazine has accomplished."
Since its beginning five years ago, the Mirko project has been
in the hands of the German armed forces - appropriately, Kulot
believes, since many Bosnian refugees settled in his country.
Forty-six issues have appeared so far with no end in sight. He
hopes the magazine will always continue, perhaps as a commercial
Changing a culture is not an expedient process. Today's adolescents
were children during the war. "They're growing up. We
(have) the task of educating them. It can't be done in a year
or two years. It has to be ongoing," Kulot says.
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