Bosnia and Herzegovina: Greater efforts needed to enhance media freedom

Nils Muižnieks, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, following a four-day visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina, reflected on the state of transitional justice and media freedom.

As concerns media freedoms, the Commissioner is concerned that various means of pressure, such as defamation, are used against journalists throughout the country to silence them and prevent them from investigating and reporting on important topics of public interest, such as dealing with the past, corruption and organised crime.

Physical attacks and threats against journalists are rarely prosecuted and seem to have been accepted or even justified by parts of the population. The Commissioner was concerned to learn the result of a recent study which showed that 24% of the surveyed citizens in Republika Srpska, and 6% in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina approved acts of violence against journalists.

“This is unacceptable and the climate in which journalists operate needs to change. I call on the authorities to effectively investigate and prosecute all crimes against journalists. Political leaders are urged to unequivocally condemn all acts of violence targeting journalists who play such a crucial role in ensuring transparency and rule of law.”

At the same time, journalists themselves need to strengthen self-regulation, promote ethical journalism, and ensure that professional standards are always abided by.

Finally, the Commissioner underlines Bosnia and Herzegovina’s need for quality, independent, pluralistic and adequately funded public service media. He is seriously concerned that Bosnia and Herzegovina Radio-Television (BHRT) is on the verge of financial collapse.

The authorities are urged to find a sustainable funding solution for BHRT and engage in a constructive discussion on the necessary reforms in public service media, thus ensuring pluralism and transparency without which no democratic society can function properly.

The Commissioner’s report on this visit is forthcoming.

Full press release is available here