Bosnia and Herzegovina | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Freedom of the Press 2006

2006 Scores

Press Status

Partly Free

Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)


Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)


Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)


Freedom of the press in Bosnia-Herzegovina is guaranteed by the constitution as well as the human rights annex to the Dayton Peace Accords. Bosnia has one of the most liberal legal environments in the world for media freedom, but effective enforcement of these laws is largely absent owing to an overburdened and weak judiciary. Libel and defamation were decriminalized in 2003; however, individuals and institutions can still bring civil suits for such claims. Over 300 civil defamation cases that have accumulated in the last several years are currently pending in the Sarajevo courts, but the number of new suits decreased in 2005. A new law creating the Public Broadcasting System for Bosnia-Herzegovina was passed by the Parliamentary Assembly in October. The main obstacle to this reform came from Herzegovinian Croats, who demanded a separate channel in Croatian; however, the Constitutional Court rejected their request. The new public broadcasting system will retain its divided nature: Republika Srpska and the Bosniak-Croat Federation will each have its own public television with head offices in Sarajevo, Banja Luka, and Mostar. The three services are to belong to a single corporation and will be regulated through legislation.

Journalism in both state entities-the Bosnian-Croat Federation and Republika Srpska-continues to be plagued by a relatively low standard of professional ethics and the fact that most media outlets appeal only to narrow ethnic constituencies. Public officials frequently exert pressure on the media through the use of critical public statements and threatening phone calls to journalists. In September, for instance, deputies of the Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) in Gacko announced that a reporter was unwelcome in the town after she published an article about the corruption of local SDS officials. In addition, journalists occasionally face intimidation and attacks by the police. In June, a Dnevni List journalist was physically assaulted by a police officer while trying to record a clash between local soccer fans and police. In August, two police officers interrogated a journalist without orders in Tuzla after he wrote an article alleging the involvement of Tuzla police in human trafficking.

Numerous independent electronic and print media organizations operate in Bosnia-Herzegovina; however, most are closely aligned to either economic or political interests. Some media owners perceive that their economic well-being depends on their good relationships with various political figures, and the government also strongly influences media coverage through its advertising subsidies. This most likely explains the lack of editorials critical of influential politicians among certain media holdings. Moreover, overtly critical media outlets tend to have difficulties attracting advertising revenue and are subjected to unannounced inspections by the financial police. Many journalists are inadequately paid and face a challenging economic situation. In November, employees of the state television stations Radio Television of Republika Srpska and Federation Television organized a 20-minute strike because of four-month arrears on their salaries. Internet access is open and unrestricted.