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News 05 Feb 18

Bosnian Serb Ministry Accused of Gagging Educators

Bosnian Serb university professors have voiced concern after the entity's education ministry told them not to participate in state-level events that discuss education in Republika Srpska.

Mladen Lakic
University of East Sarajevo Photo: BIRN

University professors from Bosnia's mainly Serbian entity, Republika Srpska, have complained about a new decision that appears to ban them from attend state-level events that discuss education in the entity.

They told BIRN that the ban limits their freedom of speech and their role in society as educators.

“How can I go to a conference and hide the fact that I am a college professor? The second issue is my right to a free opinion – which means that I can comment and criticise politics without fear of losing my job … but we see that this is not the case now,” one professor who asked to remain anonymous said.

The Republika Srpska education ministry told entity universities in mid-December that professors may no longer independently participate in state-level events that discuss educational matters in the entity.

The ban was reported in the media more recently.

The ban will potentially affect many regional or state-level events, as many in the past have discussed the highly problematic educational system in Bosnia.

Bosnia has several education ministries. Both entities, the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Republika Srpska, have their own ministries. All ten cantons in the Federation also have their own ministries.

If Republika Srpska university staff intend to attend such gatherings in future, they must now inform the entity education ministry first.

The ministry wrote that "faculties should prevent self-initiative participation of individuals and representation of universities at conferences and scientific expert meetings of a regional character".

It also reminded entity professors to represent themselves at all such events as Republika Srpska educators, not as Bosnian educators.

The University of Banja Luka has said it will respect the instruction. However, a professor of engineering in Banja Luka, told BIRN, that if it was interpreted literally, the instruction will limit academic cooperation with colleagues from the country's other entity.

Branko Blanusa also said it was in everyone's interest that professors take part in all projects concerning higher education at entity or state level in Bosnia – and in which Republika Srpska participates, such as the Council of Europe, the European Commission or Erasmus.

“High-quality scientists are excellent promoters of the Republika Srpska, but I must say also that the state from which we come in the international academic community is recognized as Bosnia and Herzegovina,” Blanusa told BIRN.

Gordana Djuric, director of the Genetic Resources Institute of the University of Banja Luka, said what staff we do as university employeeed needs to separated from their private opinions.

Djuric also told BIRN the real issue was to define by law exactly what professors can and cannot do, just like most employees in other companies.

Deans of faculties from East Sarajevo, another public university in Republika Srpska, did not want to comment on the issue in public.

But some said anonymously that there is no point of being professor, if every criticism of the system appears to be forbidden.

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