Serb entity president denies responsibility for recent incidents

Threats and assault

With general elections due to be held in Bosnia-Hercegovina (BiH), journalists in this Balkans country of some 3.6 million have come under increased pressure.

Recent data from the Bosnian Journalists Association (BHN) note 41 cases this year in which journalists reported having been victims of attacks – including five death threats and 14 assaults and other forms of pressures.

In the most recent serious case, which took place in Banja Luka, in Republika Srpska (RS), the Serb entity of BiH, Vladimir Kovačević, a TV reporter with private BN TV, was brutally beaten up with iron bars by two masked individuals in front of his house on 27 August.

Banja Luka District Prosecutor’s Office announced that the attack would be treated as attempted murder.

This assault follows a series of repeated verbal attacks on and insults to BN TV journalists by officials from the ruling coalition, not least by RS President Milorad Dodik, who had attacked BN TV as an “enemy” television station and a “factory of lies”. Dodik insisted that the RS authorities were not behind the event.

On 21 August Dodik accused Dino Jahić, editor-in-chief of Center for Investigative Journalism of Serbia (CINS), of “destroying regional political structures with money from international organisations.” Following this accusation Jahić said that he received threats on social networks.

Bosnian journalists’ union, intergovernmental bodies’ condemnations

Milorad Dodik, RS President

In a statement following the assault on Kovačević the Association of BH Journalists (BHN) accused “President Milorad Dodik of often directing his public and political attacks on journalists and the media, humiliating them and insulting them in the most primitive ways; he declared them enemies, spies and foreign mercenaries, turning them into ‘live targets’ and opening up space for direct violence.”

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) Representative on Freedom of the Media (RfoM), Harlem Desir, said in a statement that “the negative rhetoric being used against the media must end, in order to prevent further such attacks against journalists.”

For her part, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights (and 2010-2016 OSCE RfoM), Dunja Mijatović (of BiH), said that she was “profoundly shocked by the violent assault on Kovačević.”