Bosnia’s Journalist Association slammed on Thursday the request made by an official linked to the suspicious import of Chinese ventilators for prosecutors to probe media that reported on the deal.
Reports about the multi-million contract authorities in the Bosnia’s Federation (FBiH) region granted to a fruit processing company to import 100 Chinese ventilators caused public outrage and prompted an investigation into the procurement procedure by police and prosecutors.
The Head of the Civil Protection Authority, Fahrudin Solak, signed off on the deal and found himself at the centre of public attention.
But he accused the media on Wednesday of “biased and false allegations” regarding the Chinese ventilator deal and urged the Sarajevo Canton Prosecutor’s Office to investigate those reports.
“Throughout the past few days, falsehoods have been reported in the media,” Solak claimed, adding that there was an “inappropriate campaign” ongoing against the FBiH Government and its Civil Protection Authority.
The Board of Directors of BH Journalists strongly condemned Solak’s accusations and request, saying that they not only represent a “direct attack” on the media but also “illegal influence” and pressure on investigators looking into the case.
“After nearly all media in Bosnia and Herzegovina have been reporting in detail over the past few days about the non-transparent and extremely dubious procurement of ventilators, which Fahrudin Solak approved with his signature, he and his associates are now manipulatively trying to shift the blame on journalists and media organisations for any unlawful acts that may yet be determined?!” the BH Journalist Association said in a statement.
This represents a “brutal attack on freedom of the media and freedom of expression,” as well as an “abuse of the crisis and COVID-19 to prevent journalists from doing their jobs,” it said.
On Saturday, 80 of the 100 purchased ventilators arrived at the Sarajevo airport and, according to Civil Protection Authority official Sanita Alagic, will now be checked by the relevant laboratory and then sent to hospitals across Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Another 20 ventilators will arrive later.
“We have managed to strengthen our health system and even those who are condemning this can not explain their dissatisfaction. What are they condemning? The FBiH Government and the FBiH Civil Protection Headquarters have invested a lot of effort to get this,” she said.
“I condemn journalists who began doing the job of competent institutions,” she said.