The BH Journalists Association strongly condemned recent statements by Bosnia’s tripartite Presidency Chairman, Milorad Dodik, who said political analyst and journalist Tanja Topic was a “proven quisling” and an agent of “German intelligence structures.”
According to the association, these statements represent insults and “misogynistic political and slanderous pressure” which endangers the safety of “one of the most prominent journalists and analysts in Bosnia and Herzegovina.”
“This kind of threat to the freedom of speech by one of the highest political officials in the country is almost unprecedented in the local political and media scene, and requires prompt reaction and condemnation of all relevant domestic and international institutions and organizations working to protect journalists’ rights and media freedom,” it said.
BH Journalists stressed that this is not the first time that Dodik has called certain media outlets, journalists and analysts as “traitors, mercenaries and hostile media” or that he insulted or humiliated journalists whose reporting he disagrees with.
“Unfounded accusations, public humiliations, swearing and insults, expulsions from press conferences, are the usual way of Milorad Dodik’s communication with media representatives in BiH,” it said.
“It is shameful and inadmissible that the chairman of the Presidency of the state treats journalists and the media in this way, without incurring any consequences for publicly pronounced slander!” it added.
BH Journalists said it will provide full support and legal assistance to Topic and insist that Dodik proves his allegations in court, “and if he is unable to do so, he will bear responsibility for defamation in accordance with the law.”
The Steering Committee of the association also criticised certain media outlets which published Dodik’s statements “without even bothering to contact Topic and ask her to comment” which would ensure respect for the “minimum of professional integrity in the case when the target of a brutal verbal attack is their colleague and interlocutor, whom they contact almost daily about various political topics and current events.”
“Solidarity within the media community in these situations is an imperative that we must never ignore. Any kind of different course of action opens space for new political pressures on the free work of the media and journalists, investigative journalism and critical analysis of the actions and decisions of government representatives,” BH Journalists said.
According to the association, Dodik’s statements about Topic and her family, as well as all his previous verbal attacks on journalists, “deserve, at the very least, a temporary boycott of media coverage of Dodik’s activities.”
“BH Journalists will inform all relevant domestic and international institutions and diplomatic missions in Bosnia and Herzegovina about this case,” concluded the statement, signed by the Steering Committee of BH Journalists Association.