Public official insults female journalists on social media


As covered in several updates on the CIVICUS Monitor, smear campaigns and harassment against journalists in Bosnia and Herzegovina are a threat to the operation of independent media outlets. In late November 2017, Deputy Secretary of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina Dženana Selimbegović insulted two female journalists on Facebook. On the social media post, Selimbegović used derogatory and misogynistic language to insult Sanela Prašović-Gadžo and Arijana Saračević-Helać. The veteran journalist Prašović-Gadžo was hosting war reporter Saračević-Helać on her widely-watched programme "Interview 20", during which they discussed many pertinent issues facing the media in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In particular, the two journalists spoke at length about fear among young journalists when confronting powerful political elites and the growing political influence on BiH's independent media. In response to these criticisms, Selimbegović publicly insulted the journalists.

This shocking verbal abuse was quickly condemned by the journalists and civil society. The Association of BiH Journalists called for an immediate investigation into the comments and an immediate apology. Similarly, Prašović-Gadžo wrote a letter to the the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina demanding an investigation into the comments and highlighting threats against women in the media. She also posted her response in a Facebook post which can be seen below: 

Coverage of the war crimes trial at the UN International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague, Netherlands has provoked a backlash against journalists. In one example, a reporter working for Al Jazeera Balkans received a series of death threats on social media after reporting on the verdict and suicide of the Bosnian Croat Slobodan Praljak. Reporter Sanel Kajan reported numerous threats against him and his family, claiming that: 

"Lately, my family and I have been exposed to numerous threats. This morning dozens of messages were received via Facebook. Because, as a journalist, on my profile, I posted stories from my colleagues from Al Jazeera, and in the course of monitoring the verdict in the case of Prlic and others". 

Freedom of speech watchdogs have condemned the abuse of journalists covering the trial's developments. With growing concerns over the politicised climate infringing on impartial reporting, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe called upon the authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina to swiftly investigate the death threats and do more to protect journalistic freedoms in BiH. 

Finally, on 1st December 2018 a TV crew from from Pop TV Slovenia was briefly detained and taken to the police station in Prijedor while they had been in the country filming on alleged political corruption. The Slovenian journalists were released after a half-hour of questioning by police. The filmmakers were reportedly investigating suspicious financial flows worth 450,000 EUR between a citizen in Prijedor and the Slovenian President's party - Socijaldemokratski savez Slovenije.  

Peaceful Assembly

In January 2018, Zenica factory workers were prevented from reaching their destination and clashed with security forces as they protested the company's failure to pay employee salaries and pension contributions. Workers at the plant staged protests and hunger strikes to draw attention to their dire financial situation. There were no reports of any arrests during confrontations between protesters and security forces. 

A number of other protests took place recently in Bosnia and Herzegovina without incident and as follows: 

  • Members of trade unions, veterans' associations, veterans and dissatisfied citizens protested against the adoption of the Draft Pension and Disability Insurance Act. The new law introduces a scoring system for calculating the amount for a pension based on the years of service of insured persons and paid contributions, which has concerned unions and veterans' associations. 
  • Youth activists protested against visa restrictions on freedom of movement between Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo; 
  • Dissatisfied mothers protested against the changes to the Law on Child Protection. The amendments omit some new mothers from receiving welfare payments depending on when their babies were born, a move which many claim is arbitrary and unfair. 
  • Forgotten Defenders Association members protested in Mostar over their current living conditions. 
  • Bosniak Movement protested on the occasion of Croatian President's visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina. 
  • Citizens protested President Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and to show solidarity with Palestinians. 
  • Representatives of the Association of Blind and Visually-Impaired and their supporters protested in Brcko to demand equal rights with their counterparts in other BiH entities.