Media workers blocked from recording in Republika Srpska National Assembly

Expression

As previously covered on the CIVICUS Monitor, political pressure on journalists in Bosnia and Herzegovina has contributed to a culture of self-censorship. In addition, politicians have interfered with media workers' ability to carry out their work. On 13th September 2017, for example, an MP in the Republika Srpska National Assembly (RSNA), expelled two cameramen from a session where they were recording the opposition's boycott and blocking of parliament. Miladin Stanic, a representative of the Serbian Democratic Party, insisted that cameramen from Radio Televizija Republike Srpske leave the National Assembly of Republika Srpksa in Banja Luka, claiming that the broadcaster had captured enough footage. The Association of Journalists in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BH Novari), issued a statement following the incident, declaring that:

"Union of BiH Journalists strongly condemns the attacks against journalists and cameramen, and reminds the competent authorities in RSNA to respect the freedom of the press and ensure the smooth operation of journalists, regardless of political conflicts and other events at the premises of the National Assembly".

BH Novari also drew attention to two other incidents of journalists being prevented from conducting their work or being insulted in the RSNA. The Association reiterated its call to journalists working Banja Luka to report instances where they suffer abuse or persecution while covering political-related events.  

In a separate incident on 5th September 2017, authorities belonging to the State Investigation and Protection Agency (SIPA) in Sarajevo Canton arrested a journalist on suspicion of falsifying official documents. Josip Simic Djindjic from the news portal "dnevno.ba" was arrested after allegedly supplying false evidence which exposed a wiretapping scandal involving the authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Djindjic's revelations allege that Bosnia's Security Minister Dragan Mektic was complicit in unlawfully monitoring the country's acting Chief Prosecutor Gordana Tadic. Djindjic had contacted Tadic directly to warn her that she was under surveillance, and later produced transcripts of her recorded telephone calls leaked from SIPA. The political scandal between institutions deepened after Djindjic refused to reveal how he obtained the transcript, prompting accusations that he had forged the evidence. While the journalist has denied all charges, an investigation into the case is ongoing. 

Assembly

As previously covered on the CIVICUS Monitor, the issue of ethnically-segregated schools in Bosnia and Herzegovina prompted protests in the town of Jajce. Following pressure from students and locals, the Central Bosnian Canton decided not to establish a third high school in Jajce, which would separate children by ethnicity. In another recent and related development, Bosnia’s Federation entity government has submitted legislation that intends to ban the ‘two schools under one roof’ system which would effectively prohibit ethnic segregation in the entity. 

Over the last few months, a number of protests on a variety of issues have taken place in Bosnia and Herzegovina. While a few mobilisations were subjected to bureaucratic restrictions, there were no reports of any protests turning violent.   

  • Kruščica residents protested against the construction of two mini hydropower plants as it will threaten the ecological and tourist potential of Kruščica; 
  • Former war veterans have been protesting in tents for months over benefit-related fraud; 
  • Restart Srpska Initiative and their supporters protested over government officials’ expensive limos. Although the protest took place without incident, the president of Restart Srpska later received a misdemeanor warrant stating that he failed to take all the necessary measures to secure public order and peace before the assembly. He is now obliged to pay a fine of 250 EUR.
  • Sarajevo residents protested against the lack of water; 
  • The Union of FBiH War Veterans protested due to dissatisfaction with the proposed law on war veterans’ associations. While the protest took place without incident, authorities banned a Radio Free Europe journalist and photographer from recording a war veteran protest in front of the Parliament of Federation of BiH, under the pretext that recording in front of the building is forbidden; and
  • Radio Free Europe and its supporters protested against an unprofessional police attitude towards Radio Free Europe's team.

Association

While there have been no changes within the legal framework regulating freedom of association, in a positive development the Council of Ministers in Bosnia and Herzegovina adopted the Agreement on Cooperation between the Council of Ministers of BiH and civil society organisations, which confirms their commitment to building a prosperous, just, open, pluralistic and democratic society in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The decision aims to encourage political participation from civic groups in Bosnia and Herzegovina and to bring the country more in line with European Union standards.