September 1, 2021

Intreview with Samra Lučkin (Aug 2021)


She holds diploma from professional development program, US department of state, centre for strategy communication, London, BBC world service training, London. Samra is one of the co-authors of White book on media in BiH

Samra is a cofounder of South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO); former chairwoman, of the Stability pact media working group for BiH, member of Board of directors ABC (media research association), member Board of directors Balkan Youth Foundation , director of the SECEPRO (South East Central Europe PR organisation for 30 countries in the region ); was a president of IAA BiH- international advertising/media and PR;

Started in Omladinski program than in Oslobođenje in Sarajevo, Samra spent war working with international media mainly with Yomiuri Shimbun. After the war worked as a Senior media officer in the OSCE working on Development of Press Code, Press Council, FreeMedia Helpline for journalists, Small grants for media, Freedom of Access to Information Law, Defamation Law,

In 2000 she started in own company BORAM. Actively works on media project as a consultant for the Association Jabih u EU. With over 33 years of professional experience in project implementation; in supervision of experts and staff, in strategic communication management, Samra keeps working with media across BiH and the WB.

Samra Lučkin is married and has two children.


How and when did you start your career?

I started on 1987 in Omladinski program, Radio Sarajevo, contributing to the grassroots of the most popular radio program in former Yugoslavia. It was designed to provide sharp interpretation of the events and environment at that time.

Where you worked after Radio Sarajevo?

I worked later in Oslobođenje and in the war with many international media including Yomiuri Shimbun, a newspaper with, I believe, the largest circulation in the world at that time (1993-1996). It was a great but very dangerous time for me. I travelled to the area of BiH in war time. Sometimes I had to hide my name. But the work was great, exciting.

Later I joined OSCE and on 2000 I started my own business.

Tell us more about the work in OSCE in BIH?

As a Senior Media Officer, I worked on many important media projects in Bosnia and Herzegovina: on Development of Press Code, Press Council, FreeMedia Helpline for journalists, Small grants for media, Freedom of Access to Information Law, Defamation Law, etc. It was a time when the OSCE had a strong mandate in support to media in BiH and in creating better environment for freedom of speech. None of these tasks was easy to achieve. We had good partners, journalists associations, civil society and professional community- engaged and enthusiastic. It was a period between 1996 and 2000, a post-war period with lots of hard work but optimism as well. The kind of optimism I don’t see now. I do not want to say that we did not have obstacles, we did. Lots of people did not want to see or accept changes coming. But there were many people in media and among professionals who were positive and determined to make changes for the benefit of journalists and entire media community.

The war in Bosnia and Herzegovina was part of your life. Can you tell us a little more about this period – especially also private -how it changed your life?

When the war began my daughter was 4. On 1995. I gave a birth to my son during one of the heaviest shelling of the city. When I get out the hospital listening to the remote sounds of bombs, I took a look into my new-born baby and ask myself: My God, what did I do?
Nonetheless, I was aware that I did it on purpose- I did not want war to influence my life any more. Even with two small kids but thanks to the mama-service I worked on three jobs. Since there were not many people who spoke English, I was invited to teach English in school in the morning. After the lessons I went to the Press centre where I worked as a journalist and later in the afternoon I had again English classes for adults. Occasionally I worked with international media by the time I started with Yomiuri Shimbun.

For the local Press centre, I wrote many stories about people in the city, visiting many locations at the front line. I was scared all the time but I kept going. My father was killed at the beginning of the war and I witness it. So I was scared to go out but I went out and did three jobs. I was running all the time even during a peaceful day (entertaining on that way people who were looking at me with surprise). When war stopped, it took me 6 month to stop running. The good thing about that was that I was fit- 40 kilos in total (with or without shoes I cannot remember now).

How it was for media and journalists during the war?

There were radio and television stations Television Sarajevo, later RTV BIH and print media outlets Oslobođenje, Slobodna Bosna, Dani, Walter, Vox. Journalists worked under extreme conditions, often with no food and basic supplies, electricity, water. The media houses were bombed. When the electricity was cut out and we were cut out of the news, relying on remaining batteries in radio. That is why Oslobođenje was important symbol of journalism in the sieged city. Its journalists worked in the basement, 40 meters from the front line. They also were distributing newspapers throughout the city. That was our window to the world. Oslobođenje building was bombed and knocked down while the journalists were working in the basement. My husband was there so for me it was a terrible time.

You are today working in a marketing agency. How you started your business?

I own a communication agency for 20 years. Our expertise is strategic communication including public relations, advertising. We also work with mainstream and digital media. The agency started as a radio network so it had and still has a strong infrastructure and work not only in BiH but also in the region of WB. Although it has a status of an ad agency, our projects are related to high profile communication of themes of importance for citizens: democracy, rule of law, public administration, ecology, socio economic developments, and social inclusion. We build communication on a way to introduce public with these themes, and to present them with European union and UN standards in these sectors. It is not an easy job since sometimes we need to communicate highly complex issues on a very simple way. From that perspective my experience in journalism was helpful especially when it comes to reliability and accuracy of the placed content, checking the sources and when it comes to responsibility over the placed contents.

According to some experts, advertising and PR means often motivating journalists not to be professional. How you see it?

Responsible journalism and responsible PR lays on the same principals. As said, both need reliable sources, truthful and accurate content. Journalist’s job is to report on facts,PR’s job is to present facts. None of them cannot afford misinterpretation and false presentations. None of those who want to stay professional. The problem starts when journalist start to act as a PR or vice versa. These are two different professions, two different styles- bot equally responsible toward the public. Unfortunately, in past several years, there is a growing trend of presenting the PR content as a native media content. Audience does not often see the difference. In addition, due to lack of staff many media just publish press releases of PR and ad agencies. The percentage of PR generated content in all media is extremely high. It will not decline as long as media outlets are in such difficult financial situation.

How you see the general media situation in your country?

BiH media represent a West Balkan average: difficult financial situation, lack of staff in the newsrooms, constant downsizing of media market. Journalists’ salaries are very low; many of them work without contract. In addition, media are under political and economic pressures. Public broadcasters are in difficult position and overall situation in the country is very hectic. This is old- new story that has not changed so far. Professional community worked a lot on Law on media ownership’s transparency that is important for media community, maybe now more important than before.As far as professional associations and bodies are concerned: BH Journalists maintain Helpline for journalists among other activities, providing legal help and support to journalists whereas Press Council keeps monitoring implementation of the Press code in print and online media. Self- regulatory bodies are in place and Regulatory Agency for Communication monitors work of broadcasters.

Despite all these problems, very few media outlets shut down. Some of them adapted to the new markets, by changing the formats, downsizing the newsrooms or by becoming part of the larger network. Howeverand fortunately most media survived.

How professional are the media and journalists in Bosnia and
Herzegovina? Do you see problems?

Interesting issue has recently arisen between media and fact checkers. The statement of one of leading politicians that was published by several digital and broadcast media contained some false information (not obviously false). The fact checkers tagged these articles as false information and consequently the published articles were tagged as such. Consequence was that ratings of these media outlets on social media decline causing them financial damage. That become matter of dispute between fact checkers and media. The fact checkers claimed that media should have checked the statement of the politician before publishing whereas media claimed that they could not distort or change statement from its originality.

Why this example is important? In the era of digital media, disinformation, fake news, fact checking where everybody is a media content creator, journalism is changing. Do we want journalism to change to comply or to challenge these phenomena? This may be the question for one of the SEEMO conferences.

When we talk about the safety of journalists, what are the biggest
problems in 2021?

For a long time we see how the Defamation Law has been used to raise the pressure on journalists and media. Now I am concerned to see that many of these who press the charges against journalists believe that Defamation law does not offer sufficient financial compensation. Therefore, they press the charges based on the Law on obligations where they may ask very high financial compensations. I see it as raising trends and believe that is going to become a huge problem for journalists and their media outlets.

Has Covid19 influence on your work?

Of course, COVID-19 had an impact on my work. We changed the operational platforms and introduced new services. In addition, we adapted the new protocols and worked harder than before to have all changes simultaneously adopted. It was challenging but communications as a business is always challenging. In the pandemic, it became even more important to know how to cope with these challenges. I learnt it.