Bosnia and Herzegovina | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Freedom of the Press 2008

2008 Scores

Press Status

Partly Free

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

45

Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)

21

Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

16

Freedom of the press in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) is guaranteed by the constitution as well as the human rights annex to the Dayton Peace Accords, which ended the country’s 1992–95 civil war. 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 judiciary. Libel and defamation have been decriminalized, leaving civil suits as the main remedy. Government officials have filed lawsuits against journalists, but instances of journalists suing their colleagues are more common. While freedom of information is protected by law, institutions are often slow to respond to journalists’ requests. Legislation that would reorganize and unify the country’s public broadcasting system has been held up by Croat leaders who argue that it would not serve their community’s interests. An independent Communications Regulatory Agency (CRA) licenses and monitors broadcast media. The Press Council, a self-regulatory body for print outlets, responds to alleged violations of the Press Code.

Journalism in both of the country’s state entities—the Federation, made up of Bosniak (Muslim) and Croat cantons; and the Serb-dominated Republika Srpska (RS)—continues to be plagued by a relatively low standard of professionalism and a tendency to appeal only to narrow ethnic constituencies. Although attacks are fairly uncommon, journalists throughout BiH remain subject to political pressure and threats of violence, including one uttered in October 2007 by the Serb human rights ombudsman. There is also concern over the influence of organized crime on the media. Meanwhile, the current RS prime minister, Milorad Dodik, has been accused of tightening control over the Bosnian Serb media. His government replaced the leadership of the official SRNA news agency and the semiofficial daily Glas Srpske in 2006, and the opposition has alleged that the RS public broadcaster, RTRS, shows a progovernment bias. In January 2007, the RS government initiated a boycott of BHT-1, the BiH public television station, over perceived disrespect for the RS and Bosnian Serb leaders. RS officials refused to give interviews or statements to BHT-1, and the station’s reporters were barred from RS press conferences. The boycott was lifted at the end of the month, after the general director of BHT-1 was replaced. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) criticized the RS government’s actions, noting that it could have simply filed a complaint with the CRA if it was dissatisfied with BHT-1’s coverage. Media in the RS generally supported or remained silent on the boycott, while journalists in the Federation were critical.

In addition to the separate public broadcasters for the RS, the Federation, and BiH as a whole, three major private television stations operate in the country. There is also competition from outlets based in Serbia and Croatia, as well as a glut of more than 40 small television and 140 minor radio stations, many of them supported by municipal governments. Print publications include half a dozen dailies and more than 40 weeklies and monthlies. The crowded media market survives on limited advertising revenue, increasing outlets’ dependence on economic and political patronage. Self-censorship is further encouraged by journalists’ relatively low salaries and high national unemployment rates; a majority of journalists work without contracts. Internet access is unrestricted, and although the number of users in BiH has increased dramatically in recent years, it remains at about 20 percent of the population.