Freedom of the Press - Bosnia-Herzegovina (2005)

Status: Partly Free
Legal Environment: 8
Political Influences: 21
Economic Pressures: 16
Total Score: 45

Population: n/a
GNI/capita: n/a
Life Expectancy: 74
Religious Groups: Muslim (40 percent), Orthodox (31 percent), Roman Catholic (15 percent), other (14 percent)
Ethnic Groups: Serb (37.1 percent), Bosniak (48 percent), Croat (14.3 percent), other (0.6 percent)
Capital: Sarajevo

The constitution and the human rights annex to the Dayton peace accords provide for freedom of the press in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Although defamation and libel were decriminalized in 2003, many individuals and institutions file civil defamation suits asking for excessive compensation. However, the number of these suits decreased in 2004 compared with those of previous years. Many journalists in Bosnia are aligned with particular political interests, and political parties frequently attempt to influence media content. In July, delegates from the Bosnian Croat Party called for a separation of Bosnia's public broadcaster into three channels, one for each regional language (Bosniak, Croatian, and Serbian). The request, however, did not pass the initial reading in the Parliament.

Media outlets that attempt to report objectively are often threatened and/or verbally attacked by various public officials. For example, during local elections several Serb ultranationalist parties in the largely Serbian Republika Srpska accused the editorial board of Nazavisne Novine of working against the interests of their ethnic group, while the vice president of the Party of Democratic Action (SDA), the ruling Bosniak party, implied that journalists from the federal RTV Sarajevo would be fired if they failed to portray the SDA in a more favorable light. In March, reporters from TV Gorazde filed a complaint against the station's executive, claiming he attempted to limit their free and objective reporting. Serious investigative journalism remains a dangerous activity for Bosnian reporters. In July 2004, an unidentified person detonated a bomb at the house of a well-known journalist in Sarajevo. In September, a reporter was attacked near his home in Banja Luka and threatened with murder if he continued hosting his popular radio show. A month later, a cameraman was badly beaten for trying to record a site where a war crimes suspect had been arrested.

Over 140 radio and 40 television stations operate and many independent, privately owned television stations and newspapers are available throughout the country. Opposition viewpoints are fully reflected. However, journalism continues to be jeopardized by a relatively low standard of professional ethics, a reliance on foreign donations for survival, and the fact that most media outlets appeal only to narrow ethnic constituencies. Another problem for the media has been a growing division in Bosnian society between secularists and religiously oriented segments of the population. The leader of the Bosnian Muslim community, for instance, appealed to Bosnian Muslim business owners to join an advertising boycott against the Sarajevo newsweekly Dani after the magazine had attacked him and the policies of the official Islamic community in the country. A parliamentarian suggested that her party might encourage its supporters to boycott the required television tax if the state-sponsored networks failed to broadcast more Islamic-related programming. Internet access in Bosnia is open and unrestricted; however, only 5 percent of the population subscribes to an Internet service.

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