Most Bosnian citizens believe that media freedom is not present at all or is only partially present in BiH and one in four believe attacks on journalists may be justified in some cases, according to a survey presented by the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung in BiH and BH Journalists Association on May 3, World Press Freedom Day.
The director of the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung in BiH, Peter Hurrelbrink, said that the Media Freedom Survey in BiH has been conducted annually since 2009 and is of particular importance for media freedom.
“There is no free democracy without free media,” he said.
“Around the world, authoritarian governments are taking actions against independent media, hundreds of journalists have been arrested and convicted for reporting on the pandemic. In times of crisis, independent and free journalism is of particular importance,” Hurrelbrink said, warning that “more than 50 journalists around the world have lost their lives in the past year because of their work, and their murders have remained unsolved and unpunished.”
According to the president of the BH Journalists Association, Marko Divkovic, Bosnia has not seen any improvement regarding media freedom in years.
He argued that it is impossible to expect anything to improve in the working conditions of journalists in BiH, “because nothing is improving in the country either.”
“Economic factors are devastating, about half of journalists work for below-average salaries, about 40 percent of them have not resolved their employment status. Safety conditions are also getting worse – we have at least one attack on journalists a week, either verbally or physically,” he noted.
“As long as the representatives of the highest political and judicial institutions in the country generate attacks on journalists, the situation will not change,” Divkovic stressed.
As she presented the results of the study, secretary general of the BH Journalists Association, Borka Rudic, said that the survey showed that in 2021 BiH citizens trust the media and religious institutions the most (76%), followed by the NGO sector (45%), government institutions (38%) and the international community (37%), while they have the least trust in political parties and politicians.
Compared to the previous year, the largest decline in citizens’ trust is present in the non-governmental sector, the international community and government institutions in general.
Two thirds of BiH citizens believe that political dependence is a major obstacle to the work of the media in BiH, followed by a general political climate and financial dependence. Almost two thirds of respondents believe that political parties and politicians have the greatest influence on the media in BiH.
More than half of BiH residents also believe that politicians and political parties are the main violators of journalistic rights and freedoms.
In order to improve the quality of journalistic work, BiH residents believe that it is necessary to tighten the criteria for entering the journalistic profession, improve the system of education of journalists, improve working conditions, ensure better application of the law and improve the material and financial position of the profession.
When it comes to media coverage of COVID-19 pandemic, half of the respondents believe that they have had enough information about it in the last year, but also that this information could have been presented in a more understandable way to better understand the measures taken by the authorities. Respondents were divided on whether journalists adhered to ethical principles in reporting on the consequences of coronavirus, especially on deaths and the increase in the number of patients.
The majority of respondents believe that there is an evident political influence on public services in BiH, regardless of whether it is about choosing editors and directors, editing dailies and political shows or hiring journalists. Almost half of the citizens are in favour of abolishing the RTV fee, while a third is in favour of directly collecting the fee.