Politicians and access to information: The year of the pandemic clearly showed the selection of BH media to the “chosen” and others

Sarajevo, March 8, 2021 – The  Free Media Help Line (FMHL), which operates within the BH Journalists Association, in 2020 recorded a total of 69 cases of violations of journalistic rights and media freedoms. In 2020, a total of 26 cases of attacks, threats and pressure on journalists and media in Bosnia and Herzegovina were registered in the Safejournalists.net database. Of that number, 5 cases of threats and violence against female journalists were recorded. In the past year, there have been a total of 6 death threats to journalists and 10 verbal and other forms of threats. 7 attacks and threats against media outlets were registered, as well as 3 physical attacks on journalists and media employees.

The most numerous were cases of threats and intimidation of journalists, as well as various forms of pressure which often came from representatives of government institutions. When it comes to threats and harassment, the number of cases of threats to journalists through social networks and online violence has increased.

Political officials in BiH rarely condemn attacks on journalists and are most often in the role of those who attack journalists and seek to restrict media freedom. Journalists, especially those involved in investigative journalism, are often targeted by politicians and public officials as “foreign mercenaries”, “intelligence agents“…

The past year has especially shown the attitude of politicians towards the media and their attempts to restrict media freedoms in all ways, using the pandemic as an excuse.

I think that the selection of the media to those “chosen” and others has never been clearer than this year when it comes to access to information. Journalist questions are being completely pushed out of the media space and we have come to the point that the question of journalists is perceived as an insult, which is a complete absurdity – says Vildana Selimbegović, editor-in-chief of the daily “Oslobođenje”.

One of the 14 priorities of the European Commission that BiH needs to meet in order to gain candidate status for EU membership is to guarantee freedom of expression and protection of journalists, especially by ensuring proper prosecution of threats and violence against journalists and media workers. Significant attention was paid to intimidation of journalists, as well as physical and verbal attacks on them in the Analytical Report of the European Commission, which points out that they take place without a systematic institutional response and effective protective measures. BH authorities, according to the European Commission, often downplay the intimidation of journalists and the government’s response is weak, including public condemnation of attacks and threats.

The police and the judiciary must ensure impartial, prompt, thorough, independent and efficient investigations and prosecutions in cases of threats and violence against journalists and media workers. Appropriate police protection should be provided to journalists who have been threatened. Authorities are expected to act quickly and show zero tolerance for threats or attacks on the media, and to refrain from making statements that could create an environment conducive to freedom of expression – the EC Analytical Report said.

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