Banja Luka, 19.3.2023. – The Steering Committee of the BH Journalists Association (BHN) holds the President of Republika Srpska (RS) Milorad Dodik and the Mayor of Banja Luka Draško Stanivuković responsible for last night’s hooligan attacks on journalists and civil society activists in the largest city of the RS. These two holders of the highest positions, by publicly opposing the activities of the LGBTQ community in Banja Luka, and by inciting rhetoric and violating the right to freedom of assembly and action of this community, directly influenced the spread of hatred towards the LGBTQ community, as well as violent behavior towards journalists and activists.
Along with Dodik and Stanivuković, the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Republika Srpska (MUP RS) is also responsible for allowing a group of thugs to take control of the city’s safety and physically attack journalists Vanja Stokić, Melani Isović and Vanja Šunjić, photojournalist Ajdin Kamber, as well as members of the LGBTQ community and other activists, gathered at the office of Transparency International in Banja Luka.
The BHN Steering Committee assesses that the violence against journalists and activists in Banja Luka was politically generated and institutionally encouraged, in order to criminalize journalists, activists and other defenders of human rights in front of citizens and the public, and present them as “enemies” of Republika Srpska, social and religious values of that entity. With such behavior, the politicians in power and the institutions loyal to them, in addition to brutally violating fundamental human rights, also want to create an atmosphere of justification for the announced restrictions on media freedom and freedom of speech through the criminalization of defamation.
The Steering Committee of BHN demands from the Ministry of Internal Affairs of RS a public statement about the inefficient actions in protecting the safety of journalists and all other activists, whose rights and physical safety were violated last night in the most brutal way. At the same time, we expect the police to act lawfully in conducting an urgent investigation of violence, uncovering the perpetrators and sanctioning them.
BH Journalists give full support to eTrafika journalists Vanja Stokić and Melani Isović, journalist Vanja Šunjić and photojournalist Ajdin Kamber, while with the legal team of the Free Media Help Line (FMHL) take the necessary legal and other measures to protect the right to free and safe work of all journalists in Banja Luka.
Steering Committee of BH Journalists Association