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News 06 Nov 17

Tighter Media Controls Sought During Bosnia Elections

Journalists’ unions have called for closer monitoring of the media ahead of next year’s general elections, in order to tackle hate speech and biased reporting.

Mladen Lakic
East Sarajevo
Photo: Pixabay

The Association BH Journalists, the Coalition for Free and Fair Elections Pod Lupom, and the marketing agency Boram are urging Bosnia’s authorities to male bold changes to the country’s election law in order to curb biased reporting and hate speech.

The three organisations hope that the set of recommendations that they plan to send to lawmakers this month will enable the Communications Regulatory Agency, a regulatory body, to act faster on reports of hate speech.

“We will try to set a new 48-hour deadline for the Communications Regulatory Agency to deal with reported hate speech, or with similar violations of the [media] code,” the spokesperson for Pod Lupom, Jovana  Kljajic, told BIRN.

Currently, Bosnia’s main media regulatory body has the authority to fine TV and radio stations for hate speech and for breaking other parts of the code. However, such complaints tend to be addressed and processed very slowly.

Media monitoring conducted in 2016, during Bosnia’s local elections, showed that defamation and slander are the most frequent forms of violations of the journalistic code when it comes to TV and radio stations.

Another problem that the organisations wish to address is flagrantly biased reporting and the unequal representation of political parties in certain media outlets.

“Some of the [proposed] changes will affect the promotion of just one political party or person, as well as tendentious reporting, with one-sided stories on important issues,” the general secretary of the association of BH Journalists, Borka Rudic, said.

While TV and radio stations are subject already to some kind of monitoring, including fines, the situation in the print media and in online media outlets is more chaotic.

The Press Council regulates Bosnia’s print media but currently it has no authority to fine them for violating the code. The organizations propose that this be changed.

Another problem that journalists have pinpointed is the breaking of the pre-election silence by the online media.

“The current regulation should be changed, having in mind the influence of the online media,” Jovana Kljajic, the spokesperson for Pod Lupom, said.

The electoral silence in Bosnia starts 24 hours before polling stations opens and only ends when the voting is finished.

Survey conducted in May by Pod Lupom and the Association of BH Journalists show that during the election campaigns, people have much trust in the media. TV is also in first place when it comes to their choice of media.

The latest initiative reflects research and media monitoring in the Building Accountability and Systems in Elections, BASE, project, which the EU founded with the aim of improving the quality of election processes in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Changing the election law in Bosnia before the general election actually takes place in 2018 is one of the challenges facing the politicians in BiH.

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