By: Admir Arnautović
“The court president refuses to be interviewed and to deliver statements to media because this is not defined and prescribed by any law as mandatory obligation”. “Public appearance in media by court superiors and managers, including prosecutors’ offices officials could not contribute in creating a better perception and transparency respectively”. “Media conferences are cancelled because official web sites contain information regarding annual reports available to everyone”. These, rather concerning and even alarming messages could have been heard during the talks between official representatives of judiciary institutions in BiH, at the time of research, survey and analysis of current situation in the field of communications, which had been implemented and conducted two years ago with the purpose of creating a specific and strategic document. These occurrences display some of many signals and indicators that proactive communication activities, particularly in media field, within certain judiciary institutions, have not been recognized and thus accepted as significant entities, in terms of strengthening and enhancing public trust into judiciary system, including both courts and prosecutors’ offices.
Other samples have also been identified which included insufficiently developed consciousness, regarding the significance of transparency and communication between judiciary institutions with other public entities that showed interest in these particular issues. However, there have been brighter samples of well – organized communications between courts and prosecutors’ offices that may and certainly shall, in the forthcoming period, serve as platform in creating and exchange of well – tailored practices and knowledge within judiciary community in BiH.
Creating the Communication Strategy within HJPC of BiH (High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council), considered as so-called umbrella strategy, shall serve (to courts and prosecutors’ offices) as the foundation and basis in establishing and developing more responsible, adequate and better communication policies. It shall also contribute in creating and improving institutional communication strategies and practices. Adequate, appropriate, strategic, planned and harmonized communication from the HJPC, courts, prosecutors’ offices shall, by this particular strategy, be considered and treated as an imperative and obligatory practice, rather than marginalized, non – obligatory and/or mere ad hoc activity.
Strategy as an important tool
The importance of transparency, regarding talks and discussions within judiciary community, has been subject to discussions for a long period of time. The transparency has been set as an imperative by the European Union Delegation, OSCE Mission to BiH and generally, by the international community and non – governmental organizations that monitor the work of judiciary institutions. It is also encouraged by the journalists’ community and professionals that follow the communication process within judiciary institutions as well. Furthermore, the transparency obtained its complete verifications and potential (as one the crucial standards and principles in judiciary field) by having created the Communication Strategy by the HJPC. Transparency is, through this particular strategy, finally been underlined and appointed as most important standard in terms of strengthening and enhancing public trust into judiciary system, which has been equally important in terms of the efficiency, professionalism and quality of work by the HJPC, including courts and prosecutors’ offices.
According to the above mentioned and other numerous reasons, this umbrella strategy has been considered as rather important to judiciary system in general. Its implementation should, in the forthcoming period of next four years, provide countless and significant benefits for general public that must and should know everything about the decisions and work conducted by judiciary institutions in BiH. This should also include and concern media and all other participating entities, that show interest in this specific issue that follow the work of judiciary institutions in BiH. Good communication practices that have already been exchanged between judiciary institutions, including seriously accepted strategic framework that has defined and determined continuous exchange of good and well – accepted practices and other communication activities, which should eventually give hope that, within certain period of time in the near future, the relationship between public and majority of judiciary institutions in BiH should become standardized, which again, should produce a better perception by the general public and the implementation of current situation which, at present period could not be considered as satisfactory and has not reflected and displayed actual situation and state within judiciary system in BiH.
It is a fact that judiciary system in Bosnia and Herzegovina tends to operate and function within notably complex and complicated macro and micro environment and cannot exist in some type of self – isolation and vacuum space, thus remaining intact and separated from the rest of local community. This is almost impossible and public should be aware and informed about crucial and key decisions brought and passed by the official judiciary institutions, since this process concerns the field which has continuously been exposed to vast general public interest.
Work by judiciary institutions has been exposed to general public “views”, including media, international organizations, non – governmental organizations, business community and legal official authorities at all levels in BiH, academic community and countless number of other interested entities. These parties involved often publicly outline a significant occurrence of non – transparency in judiciary institutions.
It is also a fact that even a perception, regarding the work of judiciary institutions, is not on a satisfactory level. This is confirmed by the results according to the research and survey conducted by international and local organizations, during the period of last couple of years. A significant lack of trust within the judiciary institutions work has frequently been highlighted in media (and in public) and this has reflected the work by the HJPC of BiH and all individual courts and prosecutors’ offices. The effect of connected vessels, that is, negative view, regarding the observation of judiciary system in general (regardless to acceptable results in their work and communication in terms of results in certain judiciary institutions) is still present.
Work well and spread the word around
In order to have negative perception changed, it would be required to make more notable effort in all judiciary institutions. Along with having continuous effectiveness improved, including quality and working professionalism, transparency and public trust must be outlined as priorities and should also be on the same level.
In an effort to attain all of this, Communication strategy by the HJPC represents an important tool and platform concerning all courts and prosecutors’ offices in BiH that should rely on guidelines that the strategy provides. Strategy also promotes vast openness towards general public; it also provides transparency and proactive ways in communications enabling thus the institutions to create their position in public, rather than to work in a reactive way or having a complete absence of communications, which has been the case in certain judiciary institutions.
What might be considered as an important goal of strategic communication is forming and implementation of standardized communication policies within HJPC in BiH, as well as in all courts and prosecutors’ offices, which includes balanced and harmonized conduct and code of conduct in both inner and outer communication. Revealing and releasing clear and precise information in different segments of work in judiciary institutions, through different communication channels, has become a practice that may reduce spreading and sharing of false and incorrect information and rumours, delusions and misinformation, and this may eventually decrease frustrations and public disappointment with judiciary system.
Communication strategy by the HJPC has recognized this and this process is based on rather important principles and these include: proactive communication deriving from judiciary institutions, including continuity and consistency in communications using integrated communications adapted to diverse target public groups. Additionally, the focus is on two very important channels and these include the use of all potentials regarding the cooperation and communication with media representatives and also using of all new media, that is, social media in communications.
Also, taking into consideration that HJPC, courts and prosecutors’ offices conduct very important social processes; have important task in democratic society and that their role creates large public exposure on daily basis, institutions often work under pressure and are forced to operate under crisis situations related to a single or line of events that may devalue and degrade the integrity of institutions or judiciary official authorities or other judiciary officials, which additionally makes an impact on decreased pubic trust with these institutions. Due to these and other reasons, more effort should be made into crisis communication processes, and Strategy (particularly its second appendix “Strategy model for crisis communication for courts and prosecutors’’ offices”, define required guidelines in taking correct and appropriate paths in dealing with crisis and crisis communications.
Strengthening and enhancing communication with media
HJPC communication strategy, in its introductory part, contains the core essence of strategic patterns related to judiciary field and these include obligations and responsibilities of all institutions within the system in strengthening and enhancing an independent, unbiased, professional and very importantly transparent judiciary system, as necessary condition required for strengthening and enhancing public trust.
The strategy, based on previously implemented survey, research and analysis, had well assessed advantages and disadvantages as well as opportunities and threats in communications including HJPC as well as courts and prosecutors’ offices in BiH. According to such assessment, strategic directions have been well and precisely defined, including basic and common goals as part of the Strategy implementations. Two key strategic patterns have been considered universal for both, HJPC and all judiciary institutions in BiH and they have also represented an ideal that should be followed with the forthcoming period of next four years, including the attaining of full transparency in HJPC of BiH work (including entire judiciary system), as well as the advancement of public trust with judiciary system in BiH. Basic and common goals have fully relied on key strategic patterns and directions.
With the purpose of having HJPC, courts and prosecutors’ offices getting closer to the ideal of strategic patterns and accomplishing basic and common goals, the strategy has defined a line of required activities that should comprehend an inter – institutional cooperation and mutual exchange of well – displayed practices, educational programs, partnerships with important and relevant international organizations that follow and enhance the existing judiciary institutions, using of new technologies aimed to achieve more appropriate communications, enhancing of the existing and the engagement and appointing of new personnel in the field of communications, advancement of internal communications in institutions, social media use, implementation of promotional campaigns in judiciary system and particularly, strengthening and enhancing communication with media houses as the most important channels of communications with general public.
Strategy still provides key indications regarding the messages that should be directed from the judiciary system towards general public. It clearly defines inner and outer public where continuous and integrated communication is required and it also determines a set of activities that have been precisely defined as part of action plan within Strategy appendix I.
Strategy also emphasises the importance of well – developed and balanced inner communication with institutions, as important pre – requisite for quality – based communication with all outer public sources and attention is particularly paid to defining fundamental principles during the period of crisis communicating.
An important part of strategic planning for judiciary institutions is Appendix II of Communication Strategy by HJPC defined as “The Strategy Model for crisis communicating for courts and prosecutors’ offices”, which determines four strategic planning and procedures by judiciary institutions during crisis situations. In order to have responsible responses during crisis periods, a strategic strengthening and enhancement of proactive communication is significant as well, including mechanism establishing required to identify and recognize potential risks and prevention of potential crisis, as well as adequate and appropriate planning and managing crisis situations and also, efficient implementation of crisis communicating.
HJPC Communication Strategy in BiH is therefore considered as effective tool for all judiciary institutions required to strengthen and enhance communication activities and thus, create their own image in practice and reality; reinforce public trust in institutions and generally in judiciary system. Both judiciary institutions and HJPC of BiH have sufficient and appropriate human and material resources so the overall image in judiciary system seems to be improving. HJPC of BiH, along with institutions and certain international organizations, has previously made an effort in this particular direction, but also by passing the strategy, these activities have intensified and have been placed where they belong as important priorities in judiciary work and functioning.
Both female and male colleagues that cover the field of communications within judiciary institutions in BiH, have found passing of this document by HJPC of BiH, as roof judicial institutions, very important in the upcoming period so the practices would be balanced and harmonized thus resulting with more transparent judiciary system.
Finally, key goal of this strategic document has been directed toward general public in Bosnia and Herzegovina that require quality – based, professional, responsible and transparent judiciary system.
(The author of this article/text is expert in public relations of Tuzla Canton Prosecutor’s Office. This article is published in 79th edition of E-journalist bulletin)