Al Jazeera launches Balkans channel

Al Jazeera Balkans will tap into a regional audience of more than 35 million people as well as a large diaspora.

    Al Jazeera has launched its Balkans channel and website, broadcasting across the region from the Bosnian capital Sarajevo.

    Al Jazeera Balkans (AJB) will tap into a regional audience of more than 35 million people as well as a large diaspora from each of the six former Yugoslav republics and beyond.

    It will broadcast in the common language spoken in Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Montenegro.

    Apart from its main studio in Sarajevo, the channel will have branches in Belgrade, Skopje and Zagreb, deploying 15 correspondents in 11 countries.

    The region's domestic media currently tends to cater for separate ethnic markets and the new channel hopes to tackle issues on a region-wide basis.

    Lamija Aleckovic, an executive producer at AJB, said: "We really have a big challenge to start telling people what is objective TV by showing both sides of stories."

    Bosnia was wracked by war from 1992 to 1995, a period in which thousands of people died.

    Sami Zeidan, an Al Jazeera presenter, said: "This is another feature of Al Jazeera Balkans that really stands out.

    "Many of the people working [at AJB] come from communities and countries that once fought each other in the region's conflicts.

    "Here they work together, reversing the effects of conflicts fought to keep people seperate."

    The Qatar-based channel set up AJB by buying local station NTV 99 television in Sarajevo last year.

    The launch comes after a year and a half of intense construction, recruitment and training.

    Al Jazeera launched its Arabic channel in 1996 and its English channel in 2006.

    Sheikh Ahmed bin Jassim Al Thani, the director general of the Al Jazeera Network, said: "We believe AJB can truly be an open free platform for the people of Balkans to debate and to have a free dialogue."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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