Fall of the Wall: How Iron Curtain Journalists Reported History

This is the latest in a series of articles on the legacy of the fall of the Iron Curtain 30 years ago. See more.

"The crowd was surging towards the ramps, towards the poor cops, until at midnight the order 'let them through' came."

Kovac, 73, is one of four veteran journalists from former communist countries who share their experiences in a BIRN mini-documentary marking the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

The documentary tells the story of reporters who struggled to create "the first draft of history", as journalism is sometimes called, for audiences still behind the Iron Curtain.

Some, like Kovac, had a front-row view as ecstatic masses from both sides of the divided city breached what had become the defining symbol of the Cold War as East German troops with Kalasnikovs looked on.

Others could only watch from afar as news filtered in from foreign media while their newsrooms struggled to interpret the significance of what they were seeing without falling foul of censors.

"In every socialist state there was an ideological hardcore," said Kovac, a reporter for Belgrade TV in 1989 and later a lawmaker and diplomat.

"There were problems. A hardcore also existed in Belgrade TV. Initially, they were against my trip to Berlin to cover the story, and later to air it on TV … because it was seen as devastating for the chances of socialism surviving in Yugoslavia."

Serbian journalist Mihalo Kovac. Photo: Still from BIRN's 'Fall of the Berlin Wall' mini-documentary

'No illusions'

In Poland and Hungary, revolutions had already ended one-party rule and helped trigger the events unfolding in Berlin as the authorities flung open the border crossings.

Hungarian journalist Ivan Bedo, a correspondent...

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