After the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina introduced new rules which limit the electronic media’s access to whole trials, Bosnian journalists and experts express discontent.
The “Rulebook on Gaining Access to Court Information and Cooperation with the Community” stipulates that the electronic media will be given just 10 minutes of audio or video recordings from a trail, rather than recordings of the whole trial, as previously.
“Under the new procedure, the Court shall issue audio/video recordings of the trial to the duration of ten minutes that were previously made anonymous and redacted in accordance with the decision of a judge or the chairman of the Trial Chamber”, the rulebook states.
This means that only the initials and not the full names of people, institutions, companies and agencies will be made available to the public.
Bosnian journalists have expressed outrage at the new regulations on access to information within the Court, claiming that such a decision limits their rights and ability to work.
Benjamin Butkovic, an editor with Bosnia’s public television station BHTV, believes that "any attempt to deny freedom of journalistic expression is a step towards the introduction of censorship."
The decision of the court, he said, can be regarded as pressure on journalists. "The court has the means to close a public hearing if it determines they need to protect elements of the judicial process and I think this is a sufficient mechanism," said Butkovic.
Branka Kusmuk, a journalist of the Radio and Television station of Republika Srpska, believes that the new rules severely restrict the electronic media. Until now, thanks to the audio and video material it was possible to check what happened in the courtroom.
"Let the court now assume responsibility for any errors that journalists make when reporting from a trial," Kusmuk explains.
Representatives of victims associations have also voiced their anger at the decision. Edin Ramulic, a member of the association "Izvor" from Prijedor, said as a result of the Court's decision, witnesses will lose their trust in the judicial processes and refuse to testify, which will negatively affect the prosecution of war crimes.
"We will have more problems with this institution and a bigger number of disgruntled witnesses who will refuse to testify. The public will be unhappy with the overall operation and the viability and stability of such an institution will be called into question," said Ramulic.
The Association for the Prevention of Impunity, TRIAL, which works with victims' associations in Bosnia, stated that this decision ensures that the public will be deprived of information about what happens during court proceedings, and that will undermine confidence in judicial institutions.
"There will definitely be delays in communication with the public. We also think that the trust between judicial institutions and the associations of victims will be undermined," said Selma Korjenic from TRIAL.
However, not everyone was displeased with the decision. Senad Kreho, a well known Bosnian defence lawyer who has worked on numerous war crimes cases, said that the decision of the court is "appropriate" for the defence.
"There is a tendency in the media to label somebody as guilty from the start of a case," explained Kreho.