The law provides for freedom of speech and press, but the government did not always respect press freedom. Laws delegated safeguarding freedom of the press to the cantons in the Federation and to the entity-level authorities in the RS. Government respect for freedom of speech and the press continued to deteriorate during the year.
Freedom of Speech: The RS government continued to discourage political expression. During the year the RS government submitted a report to the RS National Assembly criticizing protest activities in social media and alleging that individuals with Bosniak names were particularly active on internet forums and Facebook. In June RS President Milorad Dodik accused the state-level public broadcaster BHT and other media outlets of instigative and politically motivated reporting related to the June protests. Specifically, Dodik accused BHT of encouraging the citizens of Banja Luka to protest through social media.
Federation law prohibits hate speech. RS law does not specifically proscribe hate speech, although the law prohibits causing ethnic, racial, or religious hatred. Many media outlets used incendiary language, often nationalistic, with impunity on matters related to ethnicity, religion, and political affiliation. Additionally, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) activists came under frequent attack in the media often using homophobic language.
As of September the Communications Regulatory Agency (CRA) registered one case of hate speech during the year. During an April episode of TV Pink’s program Forbidden Forum on the subject of same-sex marriage, hate speech was found in text messages from audience members that were broadcast on the show. The station was fined 4,000 convertible marks ($ 2,800). The Press Council of Bosnia and Herzegovina registered 20 cases of incitement and spread-of-hate speech from January to the end of August, all referring to online media.
Independent analysts noted the continuing tendency of politicians and other leaders to label unwanted criticism as hate speech.
Press Freedoms: The independent media were active and expressed a wide variety of views but were subject to excessive influence from government, political parties, and private interest groups. The media divided reporting along political and ethnic lines. Public broadcasters at the state and entity levels continued to face strong political pressure from entity governments and political forces that consistently threatened the independence of public broadcasters and led to consistently unobjective and politically tainted news. Both entity governments financially supported news agencies that they viewed favorably. Unlike previous years, there were no reports that the RS government provided any direct budgetary support to media outlets beyond subsidies allocated in 2012 that it provided early in the year.
State-level authorities continued attempts to weaken the CRA by injecting partisan politics into the organization’s oversight and management and diminishing the organization’s regulatory powers. The law empowers the CRA to regulate all aspects of the country’s audiovisual market, including broadcast media.
In April the state-level parliament selected six candidates, which included two nongovernmental representatives only after strong public criticism, for an ad hoc committee to select the CRA’s governing council. The process of selecting the CRA’s governing council was underway during the year.
Authorities continued their efforts to appoint multiple members to the Federation Radio and Television (FTV) steering board, despite a legal requirement that only one member of the steering board may be appointed in any single calendar year, and completed accepting applications for new members despite procedural irregularities. In March the Federation parliament approved the proposal of its Committee for Information to form a new temporary steering board, which runs contrary to CRA regulations. Parliament did not adopt the decision because a number of delegates from the Federation parliament invoked vital national interest, a voting mechanism that prevented further consideration on the matter. The legality of the appointment of the temporary steering board was under review by the Federation’s Constitutional Court. In October the Republika Srpska National Assembly (RSNA) adopted amendments to the Law on Radio Television of the RS (RTRS) allowing the entity government to finance the RTRS directly. The law also mandates that the RSNA appoint members of the RTRS steering board, which is contrary to the regulatory powers delegated to the CRA.
Institutional instability within the governing structures of the FTV and the RTRS made the public broadcaster vulnerable to continued political pressure. This was further exacerbated by state-level authorities’ failure to establish a single steering board to oversee the operations of all public broadcasters in the country as required by law and a reduction of advertising time from six to four minutes per hour, which threatened the financial stability of public broadcasters. In response, the international community, including the EU, repeatedly raised concerns about attempts by authorities to undercut the responsibilities of public broadcasters by emphasizing the need to harmonize legislation with the regulatory powers of the CRA.
Many privately owned newspapers were available and expressed a wide variety of views. A number of independent print media outlets continued to encounter financial problems that endangered their operations.
Violence and Harassment: During the year there were credible reports of intimidation of and politically motivated litigation against journalists for unfavorable reporting on government leaders and authorities. The Free Media Help Line registered 37 cases involving violations of journalists’ rights and freedoms or pressure from government and law enforcement officials. There were 14 cases of pressure on and threats against journalists, including two death threats and two physical attacks; other cases involved denial of access to information. In September there was an alleged arson attempt at the headquarters of Slobodna Bosna, a daily print media outlet based in Sarajevo that was known for its investigative reporting. The editorial board and independent analysts believed this was an attempt to intimidate the outlet’s investigative reporters. The Sarajevo Police Department opened an investigation into the incident.
Censorship or Content Restrictions: Some political parties attempted to influence editorial policies and media content through legal and financial measures. As a result, some media outlets practiced self-censorship.
In some instances media sources reported that officials threatened outlets with loss of advertising or limited their access to official information. Editors and journalists from RTV Una Sana canton sought assistance from the BiH Journalists’ Association in response to political pressure from the mayor of Bihac, who allegedly called on public institutions and public companies to boycott the cantonal television station. The Free Media Help Line reported that it received similar complaints of political pressure from RTV Gorazde, RTV Tuzla Canton, and other public media outlets operating at the local level.
There were no government restrictions on access to the internet. During the year there were reports that the RS monitored internet activities on sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Following large-scale protests in front of the state-level parliament in June, which organizers facilitated largely through social media, the RS Ministry of Interior stated publicly that it had begun monitoring Facebook and Twitter in order to take necessary actions against future demonstrations. When civil society organizations protested the move, the ministry confirmed that it was monitoring internet activities as part of its regular law enforcement activities. According to the 2012 annual Communications Regulatory Agency report published in May, an estimated 57 percent of the population used the internet in 2012.
Academic Freedom and Cultural Events
There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.
In Sarajevo, Serbs and Croats complained that Bosniaks received preferential treatment in appointments and promotions at the University of Sarajevo. The University of Banja Luka and the University of East Sarajevo continued to limit faculty appointments almost exclusively to Serbs, although some colleges expanded cooperation and exchanges of faculty members with their Federation counterparts during the year.