The Steering Committee of the BH Journalists Association and the Free Media Helpline (FMHL) called on the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Sarajevo Canton and Minister Admir Katica to withdraw the proposed Draft Law on offenses against public order and peace in KS, since the proposed legal solutions deeply encroach on the right to freedom of expression and opinions, as well as the key values of the free operation of the media and social networks in democratic societies without the interference of public authorities and disproportionate restrictions.
BH Journalists Board reminds that in the draft of that law, it is proposed that offenses against public order and peace can be committed through the means of public information, social networks or other similar means of electronic communication.
– With such provisions, the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Sarajevo Canton declares the media and the Internet a “public place” in the same way as a street, a park, a cafe or any other place where people gather, have physical contact, and where offenses can be committed to the detriment of people and /or damage to property – it is stated in the announcement.
For the Steering Committee of BH Journalists, it is particularly worrisome that the KS MUP defines as misdemeanors serious threats, insulting the feelings of citizens out of hatred, presenting or transmitting false news and claims that prevent or hinder the implementation of decisions and measures of competent public authorities.
The committee reminds that some of the mentioned misdemeanor offenses are already regulated by criminal laws and civil defamation lawsuits in Bosnia and Herzegovina (but also in other countries), and their re-regulation through misdemeanor legislation is unnecessary.
They also emphasize that the offense of spreading fake news in democratic countries is prescribed exclusively for public gatherings and all other events in public places, while news published in the media or on social networks “by the nature of things” cannot cause such consequences for public order and peace.
In this context, BH journalists express their fear that, under the guise of spreading fake news and possibly causing fear or panic among citizens, they are actually hiding the legislator’s intentions to restrict the right to freedom of expression, criticism and debate on topics of of public interest, such as the decisions and actions behind the Sarajevo cantonal authorities.
Bearing in mind the above, BH journalists and FMHL expect the Ministry of Interior in Sarajevo Canton to continue the dialogue with the media and legal community and civil society, and to carefully consider and accept objections to the controversial Draft Law before its submission to the Canton Sarajevo Government, and ultimately from the text the law completely omits the media, social networks and other means of electronic communication.