Sarajevo, February 16, 2022 – The Steering Committee of the BH Journalists Association appeals to the Communications Regulatory Agency (CRA), BHRT management and members of the BiH Parliamentary Assembly to urgently find a way to rehabilitate the debts of this public service which will not harm journalists and other media workers!
As the media announced at the beginning of February, BHRT will lay off a larger number of employees by March, mostly program workers, in order to save money and survive with the million-dollar debts of RTRS for the unpaid RTV fee. It is a debt of at least 60 million BAM, which RTRS keeps in its budget contrary to the provisions of the Law on the Public Broadcasting System of BiH.
According to unofficial information of BH Journalists and the Free Media Help Line, 84 BHRT employees will lost their jobs, and some of them have already been informed that their contracts will not be extended after March 1. It is especially worrying that the dismissals were announced mostly for journalists of BHT and BH Radio, which will have direct consequences on the quality of program content and BHRT production.
In mid-December last year, BHRT employees held a warning protest regarding the blockade of BHRT’s accounts due to a multimillion-dollar debt, after which the employees were not paid their salaries. After the workers’ protest, the problem was solved, but now it turned out that the solution was only temporary because BHRT is in a bigger financial crisis than ever. This situation is largely a consequence of the decision of the RTRS management to stop paying RTV fees to the joint account of BHRT, which is a violation of the Law on Public RTV System, which is why BHRT is currently demanding more than 54 million BAM from RTRS in court.
The long-standing problem of (un)even distribution and inefficient collection of RTV fees must finally be solved! It is inadmissible that RTRS has been violating the Law for years without any consequences, with the aim of endangering the survival of public radio and television at the state level. It is unbelievable and unacceptable that the Communications Regulatory Agency (CRA), the competent Ministry of Transport and Communications of BiH and the Parliamentary Assembly of BiH as the founder of BHRT, tolerate these violations of the Law on Public Broadcasting and allow financial and political destruction of one of the three public media service! Also worrying is the silence on the apparent destruction of public information in BiH by international organizations, led by the Delegation of the European Union and the OSCE Mission, although stable funding and political independence are priorities of their media policies in BiH!?
The Steering Committee of BH Journalists and the Free Media Help Line provide full support to journalists and other BHRT employees, and in this context call on the Union to stand up for its colleagues. It is clear to everyone that the announced dismissals for 84 workers will not permanently solve the problem of financing BHRT, which will, after a certain period, find itself in crisis again and before the final closure.
The Steering Committee of BH Journalists believes that the burden and responsibility for resolving lawlessness in collecting RTV fees, program stability and preventing political influence of the ruling parties on BHRT must be on the founder – the Parliamentary Assembly of BiH, then CRA as an independent regulator of professional and legal public services, and within the international community which is a guarantor of respect for the right to freedom of information and access to public and plural information for all citizens of BiH.
Each of these institutions must URGENTLY assume part of its responsibilities and find a solution for the survival of BHRT! Otherwise, BH Journalists and the Free Media Help Line will call on journalists and production staff of BHRT to professional disobedience – to stop the program until the final solution of the fate of not only 84 employees threatened with dismissal, but all 600 journalists, other media workers and program producers at BHRT.