Sarajevo/Banja Luka, 24.02.2023. – The Steering Committee of the BH Journalists Association urgently demands from the Banja Luka Police Department and the District Public Prosecutor’s Office in that city to stop the legal and institutional violence against Nikola Morača, a journalist from the EuroBlic newspaper and SrpskaInfo portal. Morača was interrogated by the police yesterday and forced to reveal the source of information contrary to legal provisions and international standards for the protection of media freedom and expression.
According to the information available to BH Journalists, Nikola Morača was interrogated in the Police Department of Banja Luka for the author’s text about the rape of an eighteen-year-old girl, for which one person is suspected. In the presence of prosecutor Gordana Mijatović, the police inspectors on duty demanded that the journalist reveal “who gave him the information” about the person suspected of rape and confiscated his mobile phone, even though they didn’t have a legal court order to do so. At the same time, the inspectors and the prosecutor, demonstrating their institutional supremacy and explaining that he would be detained for at least five hours by the police, took advantage of the journalist’s unfavorable situation and forced him to sign that he was “voluntarily” handing over his phone to the police.
The Steering Committee of BH Journalists is horrified by the brutal treatment of the Banja Luka Police Department and the Banja Luka District Public Prosecutor’s Office towards journalist Morača, with the use of institutional force contrary to the Constitution and criminal legislation of Republika Srpska, which protect the values of freedom of expression and the right of journalists to protect information sources. The behavior of persons from the Police and Prosecution in Banja Luka is a blatant example of the violation of media freedoms and individual rights, not only of journalist Nikola Morača, but also of four of his colleagues: Siniša Trkulja, editor of EuroBlic, Boris Lakić, editor of SrpskaInfo portal and Nebojša Tomašević, journalist of Glas Srpske , who were also questioned by the police yesterday.
This is another, unacceptable attempt to stifle media freedom in Republika Srpska by criminalizing journalists and attributing responsibility to the media just because they wrote about the case and critically questioned the efficiency and (un)professionalism of the competent police authorities.
The members of the Steering Committee of BH Journalists are convinced that the prosecutor Gordana Mijatović and the police inspectors on duty know very well that journalists can be asked to disclose the source of information only in cases of knowledge about the criminal offense of murder, and that journalistic materials and equipment cannot be confiscated without a court order. Yesterday they acted contrary to legal regulations and their own knowledge, only to create a “convenient environment” for future criminal prosecutions of journalists and media in Republika Srpska who write critically about topics of public importance, which Milorad Dodik, the president of that entity, has long announced.
In the context of the above, BH Journalists and the Free Media Help Line (FMHL) will initiate legal proceedings to investigate the behavior of the responsible persons of the Banja Luka Police Department and the District Public Prosecutor’s Office, all with the aim of protecting media freedom and the safety of journalists in Republika Srpska.
Steering Committee of BH Journalists Association