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Report: Bosnia’s local journalists under political pressure

The media landscape in Bosnia and Herzegovina has deteriorated in the last decade

The media landscape in Bosnia and Herzegovina has deteriorated in the last decade; with local media and smaller outlets the worst hit by political and financial pressures, a new report by the Post-Conflict Research Centre said.

The report, which was issued at a conference in Sarajevo on Friday said that Bosnian journalists have to contend with a variety of pressures on a daily basis which prevent them from doing their work properly, adding that media outlets in smaller local communities suffer most badly from political and financial pressures.

More than 30 journalists were interviewed in 17 local communities for the Post-Conflict Research Centre’s report, entitled ‘Real Voice of Journalism’.

Tatjana Mijovic of the Post-Conflict Research Centre told the conference that journalists argued that media owners should not use their platforms for propaganda and also asked for better legislation to protect them.

Erna Mackic from BIRN Bosnia said that journalists often depend financially on media owners, which leads to deteriorating professional standards.

“Sometimes we see self-censorship,” said Mackic, and added that in situations like this, journalists are often forced to resign or to stop following professional standards.

On the same point, Borka Rudic from the BH Journalists association said that the lack of response by police and prosecutors to documented attacks against journalists makes the situation even worse.

“Out of all the reported cases, only 24 were ever concluded in favor of the journalists and most of those were prosecuted as misdemeanors, and not as a criminal act which stops someone from expressing their right to freedom of expression,” said Rudic.

Moreover, Lejla Turcalo, an assistant professor from Sarajevo University’s Faculty of Political Science, said that journalists have to be afforded protection.

“We have failed to act on pressures on journalists and we have failed to condemn those owners of media who show no respect for their own employees,” said Turcalo.

Not only is the media sector politicized and subject to financial pressure. Last year, a report said that 2016 was one of the worst years for journalists in Bosnia, with physical attacks, threats, and serious limitations making their life in increasingly difficult. According to Freedom House data for 2016, Bosnia and Herzegovina is 104th in the world press freedom ranking.