BH Journalists: CRA Council must reconsider the decision on the draconian fine for Face TV

Sarajevo, 06.02.2023. – The Steering Committee of the BH Journalists Association believes that the draconian fine of 15,000 BAM that the Communications Regulatory Agency (CRA – RAK) of BiH imposed against Face Television from Sarajevo represents a classic attempt to censor and silence media that critically review the decisions of the CRA and the director of this Agency, Draško Milinović.

The CRA website published the Decision on the fine for Face TV due to, as stated in the explanation, non-compliance with “generally accepted standards of decency in program content”. Face Television was sanctioned with a disproportionately high fine because the editor Senad Hadžifejzović used an expletive in one of his shows, commenting on the procedure previously initiated by CRA about the video in which Hadžifejzović allegedly asked whether Milorad Dodik should be “killed” (“That’s my, our job. All my life I’ve been speaking publicly, live, to pacify them. I don’t apologize. F..k you Draško, Dodik, Bakir, Dragan, the others.”) and concluded sarcastically: “…He should be killed. .. Hadžifejzović.”

We remind that the audio recording experts hired by CRA at the end of November last year submitted a report to the CRA in which they stated that it was impossible to determine what exactly Hadžifejzović said, but that he most likely said “to dismiss, to calm, to pa…” – which corresponds to Hadžifejzović’s claim that he said “pacify”, not “kill”. After this expert report, the CRA was forced to suspend the proceedings against Face TV, and thus failed Draško Milinović’s earlier announcement about “rigorous measures” that will be used against Hadžifejzović because of his statements about Dodik.

The Steering Committee of the BH Journalists Association emphasizes that the use of swear words and inappropriate vocabulary in media content cannot and should not be justified, especially in cases where TV programs are broadcast before 10 p.m. At the same time, BH Journalists remind that, in order to protect freedom of expression and political debate on issues of public importance, the European Court of Human Rights from Strasbourg took the position that the task of the media is not only to write about positive decisions and events, but can also “shock, offend and upset” with their content if there are no other ways to draw attention to issues of public importance.

Now, after the imposition of a disproportionately high fine of 15,000 BAM, it is quite clear that director Milinović was looking for reasons for personal revenge against Face TV and its owner and editor Senad Hadžifejzović. This is also evident from the CRA’s decisions against other media outlets that have committed much more serious violations of the Code on Audiovisual Media Services, and which have been given much milder sanctions compared to Face TV.

For the Steering Committee of BH Journalists, the fact that the entire Regulatory Agency stand behind this decision and that professional and responsible people agreed to act as a “moral police” and censor over the media that criticizes and questions the regulator’s decisions, is devastating. Equally unacceptable is the expedient behavior of the members of CRA Council, which silently followed the baseless public statements of CRA director regarding Face TV.

Therefore, the Steering Committee of BH Journalists publicly calls on the CRA Council and demands that they urgently and thoroughly analyze the decision of the CRA’s internal commission, but also the previous actions and statements of director Draško Milinović regarding Face television and Senad Hadžifejzović. It is inadmissible for the regulatory body, and especially the general director of CRA, to use their powers to “discipline” those media whose reporting they don’t like or is not in accordance with their personal views and beliefs. We demand from the CRA Council to start the procedure without delay and inform the public about the results of their analysis as soon as possible.

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