Vienna, 25 May 2011 – The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatovic, said today that the recent changes to the statute of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s public service broadcaster (BHRT) may undermine its editorial independence.
Adopted on 26 April by BHRT’s Steering Board, the current statute entrusts the board with full editorial and managerial control over the broadcaster, including the prior approval of programmes and recruitment of editors. This should be the role of the Director-General.
“While this development is a further indication of the crisis and stalled reform process of the public service broadcasting system in Bosnia and Herzegovina, it also highlights the urgent need for Parliament to appoint two members of the BHRT Steering Board, to replace those whose mandates expired one and two years ago,” said Mijatovic.
“The current situation not only impedes on the Steering Board’s functioning, but jeopardizes its ability to ensure the political and editorial independence of the public service broadcaster,” wrote Mijatovic in a letter to Denis Becirovic, the Speaker of the House of Representatives of the country’s Parliamentary Assembly.
“Public service broadcasting is one of the basic tools of democracies. The objective and pluralistic news it can offer is indispensable in ensuring the freedom and transparency of elections, in fighting against corruption, and in informing the people about all issues of public importance. Public broadcasters can only do so if their infrastructure is legally protected, including a guaranteed editorial autonomy,” said Mijatovic.
She also called on Parliament to complete the appointment of the Steering Board as soon as possible and expressed hope that it will ensure that a new BHRT statute would be in line with European standards.
The OSCE Representative also offered Bosnia and Herzegovina her office’s assistance in completing the reform of public service broadcasting.