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VOA Serbian Journalist Struggled as NATO Bombed Hometown - 2002-07-09

A VOA Snapshot - Part of VOA's 60th Anniversary Year Coverage

For any journalist, keeping the news objective and fair is a daily challenge. That challenge can be overwhelming when bombs are falling on your hometown, as the staff of the VOA Serbian service discovered in 1999, when NATO bombed Belgrade.

"That was I would say the most difficult time in my professional life," recalled Maja Drucker, chief of the Serbian service. "I had my mother and four sisters in Belgrade that was under the bombs. And every morning when you come to work, the first thing is, you know, you open the news, the news services you have yourself, and try to find out did it hit and where did it hit?"

That was not the first time VOA's Serbian broadcasters found themselves personally impacted by a crisis back home. In 1993 the old Yugoslav service was split into separate Serbian and Croatian services because of the war in Croatia. Three years later, VOA started a separate Bosnian service.

"Very often people have a hard time separating themselves from the larger group that they feel they belong to, and to do a professional job in terms of delivering objective news," said Ms. Drucker.

Some staff members even resigned due to the stress. But Ms. Drucker is very proud of how her services performed in those years. "We did our job," she said, "and I think we did an excellent job."

And that job is not finished. There are still war crimes trials, a fragile peace and a national reconstruction effort for Maja Drucker and her VOA Serbian, Croatian and Bosnian service colleagues to cover.

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