Bosnia is ranked 63rd out of 180 countries assessed every year by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) which published its 2019 World Press Freedom Index.
The country slipped one position down when compared to last year.
In its assessment, RSF states that Bosnia’s political atmosphere, filled with nationalist rhetoric, contributes to the difficulties journalists face.
"The polarised political climate, marked by constant verbal attacks and nationalist rhetoric, has created a hostile environment for press freedom," the assessment says. “Editorial policies reflecting ethnic divisions and hate speech are ever more evident,” it states, adding that journalists are not only attacked over their reporting but also based on their ethnic background.
Politicians in Bosnia often use lawsuits to “intimidate journalists and deter them from pursuing their work,” according to RSF.
The NGO identified the media ownership concentration in the country as another major “source of concern, especially as ownership is not transparent.”
Journalists are often “hired on short contracts and paid little,” RSF said, calling employment conditions in media “precarious.”
RSF singled out coverage of the ‘Justice for David’ protest in Bosnia’s Serb-majority part, Republika Srpska (RS), an example.
In Banja Luka, the administrative centre of the RS, citizens have been protesting over the unsolved murder of a 21-year-old for more than a year. It turned into the largest anti-government movement the semi-autonomous entity has ever seen.
But according to RSF, reporting on it “was recently obstructed.”
“The authorities have been restricting both the freedom to demonstrate and the coverage of the demonstrations,” the NGO said.
But Bosnia fares well compared to other regional countries in the Index.
It is ranked higher than Croatia, which is now ranked 64th after it climbed by five positions since last year.
Slovenia is ranked somewhat higher than other former Yugoslav countries, at place 34.
Serbia has slipped by 14 positions since last year and is now ranked 90. North Macedonia is ranked 95, and Montenegro is ranked 104.
As usual, Scandinavian countries top the list, with Norway ranked first.
The three countries with the lowest media freedom, according to RSF, are Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea.