Concerns about media freedom in Republika Srpska and Bosnia and Herzegovina

Vienna – OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatović today expressed concern about a damage award handed down against a journalist for defaming the president of Republika Srpska, and other recent media freedom developments in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

On 17 October the basic court in Banja Luka awarded damages of approximately €2,500 to the president of Republika Srpska, Milorad Dodik in his suit against journalist Ljiljana Kovacević.

“No journalist should be held liable for reporting on the activities of prosecutors and the judiciary. Politicians must stop pursuing civil defamation lawsuits against journalists and must display a higher degree of tolerance than ordinary citizens,” Mijatović said. “These suits stifle media freedom.”

Mijatović also voiced concern about the decision by a leading political party to ban contacts with a critical TV station and the reported wiretapping of the media’s telephones.

SNSD (The Alliance of Independent Social Democrats) on 17 October instructed its members to refrain from contact with journalists from BNTV.

“These kinds of decisions are unacceptable in a democratic society. Politicians must remain accountable to the public. Journalists must be able to report on and engage in important debates,” Mijatović said.

Another cause for concern surfaced today in media reports charging that the director of the State Information and Protection Agency requested telephone wiretaps on the editorial offices of the daily newspaper Oslobodjenje and weekly magazine Dani.

“Regretfully, what I see today goes against international commitments to develop and protect media freedom and freedom of expression. I hope that this trend can be reversed,” Mijatović said.

Source: OSCE.