Bosnia and Herzegovina ranked 58th among the 180 world countries ranked in the 2021 World Press Freedom Index, compiled by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), which says that the “polarised political climate” and presence of “constant verbal attacks and nationalist rhetoric” has created a hostile environment for media freedom.
While Bosnia's ranking remains unchanged compared to last year's Index, RSF warns of “a dramatic deterioration in people's access to information and an increase in obstacles to news coverage,” explaining that the coronavirus pandemic “has been used as grounds to block journalists’ access to information sources and reporting in the field.”
“The 2021 World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) shows that journalism, the main vaccine against disinformation, is completely or partly blocked in 73% of the 180 countries ranked by the organisation,” the report says.
It also warns of a “disturbing level of public mistrust of journalists, with 59% of respondents in 28 countries saying that journalists deliberately try to mislead the public by reporting information they know to be false.”
Bosnia’s ranks higher than most other countries in the region in the Index, only surpassed by Croatia, which ranked 56 and Slovenia, ranking 36.
According to the report, Bosnia’s “polarised political climate, marked by constant verbal attacks and nationalist rhetoric, has created a hostile environment for press freedom and “editorial policies reflecting ethnic divisions and hate speech are ever more evident.”
“Journalists are attacked for their ethnic origins as well as what they write, especially about migration. Defamation suits by politicians often serve to intimidate journalists and deter them from pursuing their work. Manipulation of the media for political purposes continues, especially in the public broadcast media but also in privately-owned media (and online media in particular),” the report says.
It noted that, although implementation of the defamation laws has seen some progress, “they continue to have a self-censorship effect on journalists.”
However, the report also says that investigative journalism “plays a major role” in society in Bosnia and noted that several online media outlets have “exposed significant cases of corruption.”
“Yet no legislation has improved the overall environment for journalists, no law on online media has been promulgated, and no progress has been made on media ownership transparency,” it said.
It also noted that the Covid-19 pandemic “undermined and threatened press freedom in 2020” as authorities held press conferences without journalists being physically present and “officials avoided answering critical questions about the relevance of the government’s measures.”
“Some authorities and state institutions directly obstructed journalists’ work, and in some cases, they even accused journalists of “inaccurate and malicious reporting”,” it said.