Pride March: From Hate Speech to Abuse of Position

By Marija Arnautović |

The third BiH Pride March ended without a single incident on the streets, but not without hate speech, insults and belittling in the online space.

The third BiH Pride March ended without a single incident in the streets, but not without hate speech, insults and vilification in the online space. Step by step, the majority of the media in Bosnia and Herzegovina demonstrated that they have learned how to report on these subjects over the past three years. Still, in most cases it was without a critical insight, simply repeating the problematic statements of officials and press releases of political parties that did not always match the facts.  

Under the slogan Family Gathering and with the support of family members of LGBTIQ people, friends, citizens, ambassadors and some politicians, the Pride March, among others, sent the message that everybody has the right to express their attitudes without hate speech in the public space. However, hate speech was present during and after the March, as demonstrated by even a superficial review of statuses and comments on social networks, as well as comments on Pride-related texts published online.

Comments that participants of the March are ill, that the streets should be washed afterwards, thanking God that the rain washed the city after the March, as well as standard calls to provide professional treatment for LGBTIQ people and outright threats such as: “F***ots belong under the earth, not on it”,  “Putin, it’s about time, why didn’t you send a nuclear bomb to Sarajevo liberated by the three”, and calls to violence: “I think next year we should organize and give these queers a little beating”, additionally spread hate speech. 

Journalists and editors did not want to or did not have time to delete these comments. Whichever the case, it illustrates the media space of Bosnia and Herzegovina in which commenting sections on some online news portals are completely open, as well as the fact that there is no editing room with the capacity to delete any indication of hate speech in such circumstances, especially when their texts speak of minorities – in this case, the LGBTIQ community. 

The Minister of Economy of Sarajevo Canton, Adnan Delić, went a step further in exercising the “pluralism of opinion” on social networks, having posted his personal view on the official Facebook page of the Ministry he is the head of a few hours before the March: “If it were up to me, the ‘Mrch’ would never get my vote”. In the post which represents the abuse of the official page for the promotion of personal views, Delić states that in his opinion, God’s right is before all other rights, forgetting that he performs a public function in a secular state and that the Constitution, which he should respect, guarantees freedom of assembly and association regardless of anyone’s personal attitude. 

Several other officials, members of the People and Justice (Narod i Pravda) political party, which includes Minister Delić and is part of the government in Sarajevo Canton, and the Party of Democratic Action (Stranka demokratske akcije), expressed their dissatisfaction with the Pride March in the BiH capital. Still, they did so in their private or partisan social network accounts or press announcements.  

The cantonal representative from the Party of Democratic Action, Haris Zahiragić, called the blockade of the city due to the March “a hostage crisis and showing the muscles of minority politics over the backs of the citizens of Sarajevo”, while his party colleague and former minister in the Sarajevo Canton Government Faruk Kapidžić compared LGBTIQ members to Prince Eugen of Savoy, the Austrian general who burned Sarajevo to the ground and Radovan Karadžić, who was convicted by the Hague Tribunal for genocide and the most serious war crimes. Kapidžić illustrated his Facebook post with a photo of two young men embracing and looking at Sarajevo from the Trebević mountain next to Savoy and Karadžić. 

Most media outlets reported the statements made by officials on social media with no regard for the fact that the police closed the streets in Sarajevo because they assessed that the safety of the Pride participants was endangered, or that the comparison with convicted war criminals and rulers who burned Sarajevo down borders on hate speech, or the fact that reporting the statements made by officials, in this case, has nothing to do with the public interest. 

Hate speech in Bosnia and Herzegovina is partially regulated by the Criminal Code, while the Election Law prohibits candidates from using speech that could incite violence. There is still a lack of regulation that would be in line with international standards and those that would fully legally regulate the online sphere.  

However, a huge step forward was made in the way the Bosnian media reported on the matter and the March was professionally reported by those who ignored it in previous years – even those whose headlines and texts often bordered on hate speech.

The article was originally published by on 1 July 2022.