By: Ljiljana Smiljanić
Journalists have for years been suffering and abiding from insults, offences, assaults and attacks. They often have to suffer due to their writings or asking about things that they should keep silent about. Things that media houses broadcast or post and things that journalists’ associations usually react to, reply and respond, are just part of mere statistics, because many journalists fail to report assaults or attacks, or simply believe that it is unnecessary, considering reports waste of time. Even if they do decide to report assaults or attacks, many journalists wander what is the purpose of press releases and what is the point of having “strong condemning” of assaults or attacks? We often encounter these kinds of questions and comments on social media sources.
The question is in the right place, but journalists should know that every press release is monitored and followed by international organizations and other journalists’ associations. This practically means that association shall keep in touch and contact with official police authorities, including the officials from prosecutors’ offices, should particular cases reach that stage. They shall require these institutions to provide them with certain and relevant information regarding the progress of such cases. They (associations and organizations) shall also provide legal aid to assaulted or attacked journalists (free of charge), including required legal advices as well.
Perhaps, this all may appear as too much work with very little results. Maybe you may not want to be a part of mere statistics; part of certain maps, however, you should know that the information is indeed considered important because of your colleagues and workmates, since they do work together with you, but also those that have just emerged on media scene.
I personally have failed to file in a report regarding certain assaults. I was in a hurry to complete the task I had previously been appointed with, thus trying to avoid making a big fuss out of it, however I was certainly wrong. The following events confirmed this and it is the fact that we often make a fuss about this issue when it comes to someone else or when other professionals face similar problems. However, as far as our own problems are concerned, we tend to remain silent and do nothing about them.
Why is mapping important?
Over 57 cases of assaults and attacks, including threats, were registered by free Media Help Line this year. One out of ten examined persons believed that assaults and attacks are sometimes justified. This particular information was provided by “BH Journalists Association”. They used similar information when we required from local and official authorities to treat any assault or attack against journalists as an assault or attack on official authority. Furthermore, it should be treated as special criminal offence so these cases could be preceded faster on their way from prosecutors’ desk drawers to final court verdicts, including fines that should be harsher unlike nowadays. Why? Because, severe fines and punishments for one party could mean prevention for other party involved. Your report may not particularly help you with your concrete case, because if you had already been “picked on” by someone powerful (that has already caused the damage), it should still be considered as important issue, because its core may eventually help you in the future, so similar cases would not happen again to you or some of your colleagues. Statistics itself does seem boring and not so important to many, but it does have its uses, including the respecting of professional and ethic codes.
All of these elements protect this rather suffering profession and occupation (journalism). Should public be aware of these cases (assaults and attacks) if no one keep record about these cases and would anyone know the dangers that journalists face on daily basis while performing their duties working at the same time for public interest? Talks about these problems help in seeking required solution, including proofs and information; but they also raise awareness about this particular issue.
The number of assaults and attacks, including threats, with court epilogues and outcomes, that is, fines and punishment for perpetrators, does appear encouraging. This basically means that the official institutions do recognize the problem. Should we repeat once again that more effective journalists’ protection outlines one of the pre – conditions that Bosnia and Herzegovina must meet and fulfil in order to attain EU Candidate Status?
Do you have a better idea how to fight against assaults, attacks and threats against journalists or how to use required information? If you do, please do share it with us. Help us make our shield more powerful and stronger. Do not let yourselves become mere statistics and part of this particular problem; become a part of solution instead.
(The author is a journalist of Al Jazeera Balkans and a member of the Steering Committee of BH Journalists. This article is published in E-journalist bulletin)