Q: Could you start by telling us a bit about the alternative media initiative you are involved with?
A: FreedomFight is an anarchist, alter-globalist movement created in Serbia in 2003. The FreedomFight movement has its web-based media, at www.freedomfight.net.
Q: How did FreedomFight start?
A: FreedomFight was founded at the end of March 2003, during the state of emergency in Serbia that was declared after the assassination of Premier Zoran Djindjic, although this situation was not a direct cause for its creation. Still, censorship in the media and single-mindedness that it imposed were certainly one of the incentives for the creation of the movement. At first, FreedomFight was conceived as an alternative media, but, after a while, the idea of spreading a movement and developing activities beyond pure information emerged.
Q: Where would you position yourself politically?
A: The purpose of the movement is to encourage people to oppose oppression, through acts of disobedience against the system and its institutions — the military and police, government, educational institutions, etc. One of our primary goals is to connect people according to the principles of non-existence of hierarchy and authority, the principles of individual participation, community decision-making, and decentralization.
The movement rejects cooperation with any political party, non-government organizations that promote neo-liberalism and capitalism, or racist organizations, and sees in them only deviant characteristics of the system. Our co-fighters are other anarchist or alter-globalist organizations in the region. We cooperate with movements in Serbia, such as the Kontrapunkt alternative media and anarchist trade unionists. Naturally, we cooperate with similar organizations in Croatia.
Q: Is FreedomFight mainly Belgrade-based, or is it also present in other Serbian towns?
A: In Serbia, FreedomFight has chapters in several towns. Each chapter is free to decide on its own activities. Due to the lack of funding, activities are mostly concentrated on publishing our magazine for the time being. Since one year ago, there has been a chapter of FreedomFight in neighboring Croatia, a country that was at war with Serbia for most of the 1990s.
Q: So, let’s have a look at the actual website; what’s on there?
A: The FreedomFight magazine was not conceived as a media that reports on all important events. Instead, we select articles and information which should incite readers to act and rebel against oppression and injustice in their environment.
A new issue usually appears each month. Besides translating articles, we try to encourage the creation of as many original articles as possible. In addition to new issues, the web site contains other sections, such as Current Events, containing news about events in the country and abroad that we believe are important. In the Archive section, there are articles from all previous issues.
There is also a link on the web site to a blog that we use to communicate with activists about information that could be made available to the public. The blog is making our communication easier, and it also enables activists who are not directly involved in an activity to be informed about it.
Q: But this blog is not really part of FreedomFight, is it? Are blogs used a lot?
A: In Croatia, there is a network of politically active bloggers, who use the possibility to cerate blogs free of charge and publish political articles, instead of maintaining an Internet presence that costs money. A FreedomFight activist from Croatia has created a blog, rallying other bloggers, where anyone can publish an article, discuss existing texts, comment on them, etc.
Q: Do you have any connections to international networks?
A: Of the movements outside of the former Yugoslavia, we maintain contact with organizations such as CrimethInc, whose articles we publish here. We cooperate with people such as Paul Polanski, who runs an organization in Kosovo for the protection of the Roma and who is at present living in a town in Serbia, and Immanuel Wallerstein. We are especially interested in informing readers about the activities of the people we believe are important — for instance the Zapatistas in Mexico — about riots in the French suburbs, the Family of Clear Streams in Serbia, etc. Now we are trying to start publishing a Serbo-Croatian edition of Z Magazine.
Q: In our research we are particularly interested in questions of organization: that is, how is alternative media actually done? So, how many people are active in the production FreedomFight?
A: It is hard to say . . . if you think of everyday work, then it is no more than ten . . . many materials like texts, information, etc. we get from the people whom we didn’t meet but we have a frequent correspondence with. In fact, we tend to encourage everybody to act on their own, to do actions, write texts, or publish opinions on their own. There are much more people of that kind than us, who do logistics and edit and distribute texts. What is of main importance to us is the erasing of boarders between readers of the web site, FF supporters, and activists themselves. Many people want to help, for example people from FF Croatia in the beginning were only the readers of the site who worked on their projects . . . now, we collaborate.
Q: And you, personally — how many hours of your daily free time do you work on FreedomFight?
A: It depends on the person. Since I study, I try not to work too much for FF, but it always turns out that I work less for my studies. It is Milan who designs the site and uploads stuff, and he hangs around for the rest of the day. Now, since he graduated, Pedja has more time to translate, and we are currently working together on one of our texts. Pavle is very active, too. So, much of our time goes to editing texts and revising translations and also to writing introductions to literature, selecting texts, etc.
Q: Is it hard to make a living while also doing this activist work? How do you earn a living; do you rely on anybody to support you?
A: It depends on the person again. I live on student credit, in a student hostel, where my expenses are smaller. Occasionally I publish texts in literary magazines or I do translations for some honoraria. . . . Milan is supported by his mother. From time to time, he sells some CDs and earns solid money on that. Pedja is a school teacher and gets a miserable salary, and he financially supports his brother who studies in Novi Sad. Pavle studies and works in some shop. V. sells some illegal stuff. . . . Other people live with parents, one friend is teaching singing, etc.
Q: And within FreedomFight, how do you make decisions regarding the selection of materials? Is there a kind of editing or moderating of content?
A: Yes, there is editing or moderating. . . . If a text that glorifies the war on Iraq or US foreign policy, or promotes neo-liberal ideology, capitalism, or hierarchy, came to us, our scissors would get to work immediately. We cannot publish any rubbish, you know, but if we come across something interesting that we see as worthy of FF’s support, we dedicate some space to it on our web site. If we find a text that criticizes injustice in proper way, we publish it. . . .
Decisions are made by those who have time to read a given text, after a short explanation to others about the reason for publishing or not publishing it, with which everybody is free to agree or disagree.
Steffen Böhm lives in London, teaches organization studies at the University of Essex, and is editor-in-chief of ephemera: theory & politics in organization (at www.ephemeraweb.org).