Sarajevo, March 31st – The Steering Committee of the BH Journalists Association invites the Crisis Staff of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Crisis Staff of the Sarajevo Canton to communicate more openly, effectively and publicly with the media outlets in Sarajevo, which will include more opportunities to ask journalistic questions and receive complete answers regarding the coronavirus and the consequences of the pandemic for the inhabitants of the capital and the whole of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
A number of journalists from the Sarajevo-based media have complained to the Free Media Help Line on limited opportunities to ask questions and obtain relevant and complete information regarding fatalities, coronavirus testing, isolation rooms preparation, distribution of duties and responsibilities between health centers and hospitals. Of particular concern is the fact that top officials of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Canton of Sarajevo avoid answering critical questions and publicly questioning the expediency of certain measures and decisions of state bodies or public institutions, which creates additional confusion and fear among citizens.
The BH Journalists Steering Committee acknowledges the crisis staffs and governments of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Canton of Sarajevo for establishing a media pool as a safe and reasonable way of organizing press conferences in this crisis period. However, at the same time, we warn that organizing press conferences without the physical presence of journalists, as well as excluding the possibility of their direct dialogue with public officials during the conference, leads to censorship, incomplete information for citizens and possible political manipulation with certain information.
Therefore, the BH Journalists Steering Committee requests that these two crisis staffs, together with public service broadcasters (which provided direct transmission and signal sharing with all media outlets), create the preconditions for direct participation of journalists in press conferences – in limited numbers and at the request of media outlets. We also request that all members of the Crisis Staff of the Canton of Sarajevo and the Crisis Staff of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina submit to the media in advance lists of names of persons who will speak at a press conference and who can submit questions via e-mail and receive answers directly at the press conference.