Sarajevo/Banja Luka, 03.03.2023. – The Steering Committee of the BH Journalists Association strongly condemns yesterday’s decision of the Government of Republika Srpska to introduce defamation into the Criminal Code of that entity and demands an immediate reaction from representatives of the international community in Bosnia and Herzegovina in order to prevent the criminalization of defamation.
The Government of Republika Srpska adopted yesterday the Draft Law on Amendments to the Criminal Code of RS, which introduces new criminal offenses against honor and reputation, i.e. the criminal offense of insult and defamation. Entity Minister of Justice Miloš Bukejlović announced that fines for the aforementioned crimes will range from 5,000 to 50,000 BAM.
The Steering Committee of BH Journalists warns that the process of criminalizing defamation, initiated by the authorities in Republika Srpska, represents an open stifling of media freedom and independent, investigative journalism in that entity. The fact that the authorities of the RS have decided through changes to the existing law to define even the amount of fines for defamation, and that the stipulated fines are significantly higher than the amounts that the courts in BiH have so far decided on defamation lawsuits, is nothing more than an institutional attempt at intimidation of journalists and the media, especially those who write critically about the moves of the government, the suppression of media freedom and the introduction of (self)censorship.
We emphasize that certain politicians from the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina also support the criminalization of defamation, and it is to be expected that if Republika Srpska adopts the aforementioned amendments to the Criminal Code, the same will happen in FBIH.
The journalistic community in Bosnia and Herzegovina, including around 700 members of BH Journalists Association from all over the country, is united in the opinion that such processes must be stopped. We now need the support of the international community, especially the OHR, the Delegation of the EU, the Council of Europe and the OSCE in BiH, which must act concretely to prevent the criminalization of defamation! Their previous silence and opportune behavior gave Milorad Dodik and his advisers the wind to carry out their plans to criminalize defamation and shut down independent media in our country.
Once again, we remind that in its report for 2022, the European Commission requested from BH authorities to guarantee freedom of expression and the media and the protection of journalists as one of the fundamental conditions on the way to membership in the European Union. Therefore, we also invite politicians from both BH entities to raise their voice and show that Bosnia and Herzegovina is a country where freedom of speech and freedom of the media are unquestionable as an integral part of the European integration process.
Steering Committee of BH Journalists Association