Project Bosnia: Independent Media Server

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Project Description


  .........The nearly four years of war in Bosnia and Herzegovina marked the worst fighting on European soil since World War II. From 1992 to 1995, the tiny former Yugoslav republic was tom asunder. Roads, bridges and apartment buildings were shattered. Water, heat and electricity became sporadic at best, frequently leaving the city without such necessities for days or even weeks at a time. In cities like Sarajevo, the Bosnian capital, conducting routine chores like going to the marketplace oftentimes proved life threatening, due to incoming mortar shells, snipers, or land mines. For Bosnian attorneys, judges, professors and law students, the elements of a legal infrastructure were shattered by this war. Law libraries, law books, and legal records were destroyed, and many legal institutions ceased to function. Similarly, Bosnian journalists, broadcasters, and newspaper publishers faced daunting challenges in the absence of printing presses and telecommunications services.

          While the Dayton Accords and an international military presence ended the fighting in Bosnia and Herzegovina, a strong and lasting peace may prove elusive unless the rule of law is restored. The rule of law and a civil society will significantly enhance Bosnia's long-term prospects for peace. The former requires functioning legal institutions that are perceived as legitimate. To be perceived as legitimate, legal institutions must be able to exchange and disseminate information. The Internet is the most efficient and inexpensive way to fulfill these objectives.

          The underlying philosophy of Project Bosnia is that Internet technology can help rebuild Bosnian law libraries, the court system and legislative processes, as well as provide the means for Bosnian journalists and other members of the press and media to assure the freedom of information by practically replacing the mortar, bricks, paper and printing presses with virtual legal infrastructure, news boards and web-forums. The implementation of Internet-based legal and media infrastructures will allow immediate and unencumbered access to the court rulings, criminal cases, newly drafted laws, news, judicial opinions and other pertinent information. Law students, professors and journalists will be able to exchange views and publish their work through e-mail exchanges, news groups and Web-based discussion forums. It will afford a free information exchange among members of Bosnian legal, press and media communities, as well uncensored communication with their international colleagues.
          Project Bosnia began with the donation of a laptop computer to three law faculty members from the University of Sarajevo, who visited the Villanova School of Law in January, 1996. Project Bosnia, under the leadership of Dean Henry H. Perritt, Jr., focused initially on legal institutions in the cities of Sarajevo and Mostar, both in the Muslim-Croat half of Bosnia. During two trips to Bosnia in 1996, Dean Perritt and Project Bosnia students laid the groundwork for the installation of the region's first Internet server with telephone dial-up capability, and equipped the Federation Constitutional Court and Ombudsmen with a number of Pentium computers. The project subsequently arranged for the donation and delivery of an Internet server, and obtained monetary and other resources from the World Bank, U.S. Government, Soros Foundation and other institutions and individuals to provide ongoing support for the project's work.
          The idea for expanding the project to media institutions in Banja Luka, seat of government of the Serb half of Bosnia, was born out of a September 1996 meeting in a Sarajevo café between Dean Perritt and the chief U.S. Information Agency officer in Bosnia. Dean Perritt and a group of students from Chicago-Kent then traveled to Banja Luka in the fall of 1997 to establish the necessary relationships and obtain technical information to set up an Independent Media Intranet in Banja Luka. The IIT "Project Bosnia" IPRO was subsequently established to provide an academic framework in which IIT students from a variety of disciplines could participate in accomplishing the new goals of Project Bosnia in Banja Luka.


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The Rule of Law Through Technology Initiative
is an Interprofessional Project (IPRO) of

Chicago-Kent College of Law,
Illinois Institute of Technology