More than 30 attacks, threats and pressure on journalists in BiH registered in the first half of 2021

Sarajevo, June 1, 2021 – The Municipal Court in Sarajevo, at the hearing on ordering custody, on Monday, May 31, decided that Abdulah Hajdarevic, who is suspected of endangering the safety of the editor and owner of Face TV Senad Hadzifejzovic, can defend himself from freedom with prohibitive measures.

“I am a journalist. I should not comment on court rulings, even when they concern me, but I am deeply, deeply, deeply disappointed with the court’s decision, not because of me, but because of all of us journalists. This is a decision against journalists”, Senad Hadzifejzovic told Radio Free Europe (RFE) after the court’s decision.

His lawyer, Adna Dobojlic, told RFE that the decision was not final as the Sarajevo Canton Prosecutor’s Office has the right to appeal within 24 hours.

“After that, the Court will decide on the appeal again”, she added.

On Friday evening, May 28, Hajdarevic with threats tried to enter the premises of Face TV during the TV program edited and hosted by Hadzifejzovic. He was prevented from doing so by the security and the police arrived on the spot very quickly, RFE writes.

The BH Journalists Association, in cooperation with the Institution of the Ombudsman of BiH, in 2019 initiated the process of amending the criminal legislation in BiH in order to protect the journalistic profession in particular through criminal legislation.

However, as Vildana Dzekman, a lawyer from the BHJA, told RFE, there are still no answers from the government institutions to the amendments to the criminal legislation that they sent to the state and entity parliaments.

“We will put pressure on the criminal legislation to be changed so that all attacks on journalists can be prosecuted, and on the other hand, so that the Prosecutor’s Office can initiate proceedings ex officio in the event of an attack on a journalist”, she said.

Changes in criminal legislation, explains Dzekman, should go in two directions – primarily to prosecute any threat or attack on journalists, and for prosecutors to initiate proceedings ex officio.

“And not, as is happening now, that we have to ask the Prosecutor’s Office to assess whether it is really a crime or not, not to face a large number of answers from the Prosecutor’s Office which rejects everything we invest as unfounded”, Dzekman explains.

According to BH Journalists, in the first half of 2021 alone, over 30 attacks, death threats, verbal and physical threats, ban on access to information, political pressure and other forms of violation of the rights of journalists in BiH were registered. Last year, 69 violations of journalists’ rights were registered, compared to 56 a year earlier.

Only a small percentage, 30 percent of reported cases of attacks on journalists in BiH, have been processed.

“In the last three years, over 60 percent of journalists have been exposed to attacks and threats, and about 75 percent of them have experienced this from a politician or public official”, Dzekman added.

Among them is journalist Eldin Hadzovic, who was threatened by a member of the Armed Forces of BiH with slapping and breaking his fingers with a hammer, because of an article entitled “How the mayor of Sarajevo failed the first exam: They are not Serb criminals, but the RS Army.”

A member of the Armed Forces of BiH was imposed a disciplinary measure for his behavior, which, as Hadzovic says for RFE, is one of the most severe measures that the Armed Forces can impose on its members.

“I can say that I am even pleasantly surprised by the relative speed with which this process was completed. The matter is, procedurally speaking, quite clean, since everything is documented, as well as the fact that the perpetrator confessed to the crime. However, I believe that a disciplinary measure is not enough”, he added.

(You can read the entire article on RFE)

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