Media and journalism in South-East Evrope: Case of Bosnia and Herzegovina

Media and journalism in South-East Evrope: Case of Bosnia and Herzegovina
Event date: 
Tue, 2014-07-01 11:45

Media sector in Bosnia and Herzegovina is currently facing major problems, mostly related to two general factors: strong political interference and unfavourable economic conditions. This is the overriding conclusion of the conference named “Media and journalism in South-East Europe: Case of Bosnia and Herzegovina, held in Sarajevo on 26th of June 2014.

During the first part – press conference – the speakers touched upon some of the major issues concerning media in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the region of SEE, and finally presented the major results of the research about media integrity, which was conducted by Mediacentar as a part of the project Media Observatory in SEE.

Andy McGuffie, spokesperson of the EU mission to BiH pointed out the relevance of the media integrity and the interest of EU for the issue. Boro Kontić, director of Mediacentar Sarajevo pointed out how media research gives important insights into the current state of affairs in media environment in the country burdened with multitude of problems.

Brankica Petković, the regional coordinator of the project SEE Media Observatory said few words about the project involving research in five countries of the region, which showed that many of the issues concerning media integrity are common for the countries in the region,  but also involve the global trends of commercialization and privatization of public interest.

Sanela Hodžić pointed out major conclusions of the research in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The aim of the research was to give a holistic overview of the issues relevant for media integrity. Five major areas were explored, including media policies, media ownership, financing patterns, functioning of public service broadcasting and the position of journalists/media practices.

Identified risks for media integrity are worrying. There are indicators that political interference is raising. Political elites are indolent in terms of developing media policies, but at the same time do not waver to change the procedures and laws to better suit their interests. Some of the recent changes were changes of procedures of appointments in the regulatory body or in the public RTV service RTRS, which enable easier political control. Other initiatives, such as proposed changes of the Freedom of Information Act or the attempt of the government in the Federation of BiH to appoint the new Governing Board of public broadcaster FTV are also worrying. But the fact that the reactions from the professional community, civil sector and international community stopped the negative changes gives hope that the civil society can balance the particular interests in the future of media policies as well.

Several problematic issues were identified concerning the media ownership – political affiliations (through different patterns), poorly regulated foreign ownership (especially in broadcasters and agencies), as well as the lack of transparency of media ownership (especially in online media sector) and complete absence of regulatory safeguards against concentration of ownership.

After the press conference, two sessions of debates with members of professional community followed.

The conclusions of the first session:
- The underdeveloped media policies and political interference
- Recent cases of changed procedures of appointments and amended laws are worrying
- The credibility of CRA is questioned due to political pressures
- Ministry of Communication of BiH is currently developing legislature to face major issues concerning, inter alia, transparency of ownership
- There are concerns about these laws that call for close monitoring of the changes that will be proposed (whether it will do justice for the progress previously made in terms of regulation of media sector)
- Need for developing of specific policies based on the particular needs of media in BiH, instead of uncritically adopting of solutions from other countries
- Solidarity among journalists faced with different kinds of pressures is poor
- There is a need for better professional organising and solidarity

Conclusions of the second session:

- One of the major issues in the media market is the outflow of advertising revenues in the neighbouring countries
- There are no policy responses to this issue
- The advertising practices of public companies that are major advertisers in the country, are guided more by the particular private and political interests than by the market logic
- The sources of revenues for media critical of the centres of power are extremely scarce
- There is a trend of satanisation of the advertising industry by some media in the country, while they are missing opportunities to substantially report about the major issues in this area

The research report will hopefully give a contribution to the development of media policies and practices in the future, but more so it will expectedly incite more debates about the major issues.