Journalists and media in Republika Srpska have recently been the target of various types of attacks and pressures.
Milorad Dodik, President of Republika Srpska, at the press conference held on March 8 in Banja Luka commented inappropriately on the fight of journalists against the criminalization of defamation and the draft amendments to the Criminal Code of Republika Srpska, according to which defamation would be criminalized, and citizens and journalists would be punished with fines of up to 100,000 KM (about 50,000 euros). In addition to inappropriately speaking to journalists and publicly insulting Siniša Vukelić, a member of the Steering Committee of BH Journalists and the president of the BHJA Press Club Banja Luka, Dodik announced rigorous measures against the NGO sector and associations financed by donor funds, and explained that “in its law, the USA calls foreign non-governmental organizations or those financed by foreigners foreign agents on the territory of the USA”, and announced that Republika Srpska will adopt the same terminology.
The day after the conference, journalists Aleksandar Trifunovic from Buka and Nikola Moraca from EuroBlic had their cars scratched by vandals. Banja Luka police are currently investigating the case. Moraca was recently questioned by the police and his mobile phone was confiscated after he refused to name the source of the information, which SafeJournalists network condemned. Dodik did not fail to address this issue as well, saying that “there are indications” that the journalists themselves damaged the vehicles.
The BH Journalists Association points out that the vandalism on the property of two journalists is a direct consequence of the messages that Milorad Dodik has been sending to the public for days. With his rhetoric, Dodik targets journalists who fight against the criminalization of defamation as “unfit”. He publicly designates individual journalists as “enemies of the system”, and it is only a matter of time when some of those journalists will be physically attacked because the president of Republika Srpska has made them targets, the Association concludes.
SafeJournalists Network, representing more than 8,200 media professionals in the Western Balkans, demands that the police urgently investigate the cases. The network calls on the competent institutions to ensure the necessary protection for journalists while the investigation continues and until the perpetrators are found. We expect Milorad Dodik and all other state officials to stop stifling media freedoms in Republika Srpska and “pointing the finger at journalists”, because in this way the safety of journalists and their families is endangered.
SafeJournalists network will inform all relevant national and international stakeholders about these cases.
Each attack on journalists is an attack on public interest, democracy and rights of all citizens.
Belgrade – Podgorica – Pristina – Sarajevo – Skopje – Zagreb, 10.3.2023
Association of Journalists of Kosovo
Association of Journalists of Macedonia
BH Journalists Association
Croatian Journalists’ Association
Independent Journalists’ Association of Serbia
Trade Union of Media of Montenegro