International bodies that have been rebuilding the country since the civil war ended in 1995 are trying to make up for the failure of the Dayton Peace Accords to provide for the media. The creation in 2001 of the Communications Regulatory Agency, to assign operating licences and impose discipline, was an important step in this direction. But local journalists have criticised such efforts, saying a serious media development strategy is lacking.
The country’s journalists attacked a draft public broadcasting law proposed in 2003 by the UN High Representative for Bosnia-Herzegovina, Paddy Ashdown, that would strengthen the say of political parties and the government. A restructuring plan was also presented by a BBC consultancy team to end the serious financial deficit of the public broadcasting service, partly caused by the fact that only a third of the population pays a licence fee. The plan, involving extensive layoffs, was firmly rejected by unions and management, especially those of the federal TV station, RTV FB-H.
Amendments to the law governing the station, approved by the federal parliament’s House of Representatives in June and by its House of Peoples on 15 October, also stirred up great controversy. They were adopted in the face of protests by journalists’ associations and the federal ombudsman and oblige RTV FB-H to broadcast sessions of both houses in their entirety, thus threatening the station’s editorial independence and incurring extra cost. As the European Commission considered future Bosnian membership of the Association and Stabilisation Agreement, Ashdown’s office noted that public service reform is a condition for joining the European Union.
A journalist arrested
Tijana Veselinovic, of the daily EuroBlic, was arrested in the Serb Republic on 25 June and questioned about her sources for an article she wrote about a murder in the town of Banja Luka. She was freed after refusing to reveal them, supported by the paper’s publisher, Zoran Bajic, and editor, Milan Ljepojevic, who also both refused to answers such questions.
Harassment and obstruction
The Croat-Muslim Federation’s TV station, FTV, was put under police guard on 25 January 2003 after a group of extremist students from the Saravejo arts faculty demanded, in an open letter printed in the weekly Ljiljan, the dropping of the political programme "60 Minutes" and the removal of the programme’s editor, Bakir Hadziomerovic, and the station’s chief editor, Marija Topic-Crnoja, who said several of the station’s journalists had received anonymous threats.
Students demonstrated in front of the FTV offices on 27 January against a broadcast about the 1997 discovery by NATO-led SFOR forces on Mt. Pogorelica, near Sarajevo, of a presumed training camp for Islamist terrorists. A trial of those involved is under way implicating top interior ministry officials of the time. The students demanded that the trial be stopped, saying it was an insult to Bosnian fighters.