The Freedom of Expression is regulated by Constitutional laws at levels of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Federation of BiH, Republika Srpska and District Brčko as well as by Defamation laws at Federation BiH3, Republika Srpska4, and District Brčko5.
The prevailing view of CSOs’ representatives is that freedom of expression is violated in practice, although protected by both the constitution and the convention on human rights and freedoms. Legal provisions guaranteeing freedom of expression are in place. However, political and ethnic lines continue to divide the public sphere and drive the development of legislative proposals in the media sector. According to the European Commission Report from 20186, political pressure and intimidation of journalists continued, including physical and verbal attacks. Best example that indicates the situation in Banja Luka is the Dragičević case.
Journalists continued to face interference with their work. Cases involving intimidation and threats to journalists (including those reporting on the ICTY decision on Prlić and others), verbal and physical attacks, hacking of websites, political, institutional and economic pressure and defamation continued to be reported. Authorities do not collect data on threats and attacks against journalists and media workers, and swift investigations and prosecution of perpetrators is not always ensured.
In August 2019, the BiH journalists’ association “BH Novinari” recorded 41 violations of journalists’ rights, including 3 verbal threats, 8 instances of political pressure, 6 physical assaults, and 5 death threats7. Most of the cases were reported to police and 15 cases were at the relevant prosecutor’s office. Although the number of solved cases has not significantly increased, “BH Novinari” reported that police was more engaged and proactive with cases than it was in the past, as well as that the other relevant State institutions communicated better regarding attacks on journalists. In January, the owner of the portal Visoko.co.ba received threats after publishing articles about nepotism. Photo journalist Adi Kebo was attacked and his camera was damaged in March by a politician. The both cases were with the relevant prosecutor’s office. By August 2019, there were 4 court convictions for attacks on journalists, including a four-year sentence for Marko Čolić for the attempted murder of journalist Vladimir Kovačević in 2018. The USAID-funded Independent Media Empowerment Project (IMEP) provides support for legal representation for media organizations and journalists targeted by politically motivated defamation lawsuits. During 2019, in two cases, the final decisions are enacted in favor of “Start” and “Info Radar”, both from Sarajevo. Additional available info is in the footnotes.
0 – 20 Fully disabling environment20 – 40 Disabling environment
40 – 60 Partially enabling environment60 – 80 Enabling environment
80 – 100 Fully enabling environment
A positive development is the adoption of the Rulebook on the Automatic Case Management System in the Prosecutor’s Offices (TCMS)8 adopted by the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council. According to the Rulebook, defendants and claimants in defamation acts will be registered in the CMS system in the future, which will increase transparency in these cases.
The Ombudsman offices reported that they don’t have the evidence of regular procedures for collecting cases of violation freedom of expression. However, they received several complaints regarding such cases and misdemeanor penalties against journalists and citizens, but their office did not officially react on any of these cases.