The country became the 44th member of the Council of Europe on 20 March 2002, which committed it to guaranteeing human rights and basic freedoms. Efforts were made to respect ethnic minority rights with recognition of three official langworking in uages - Bosnian, Croat and Serb. In August, the federal parliament passed a law decriminalising defamation. The international community’s High Representative for Bosnia-Herzegovina, Wolfgang Petritsch, had ordered this to be done in 1999 but it was only approved by the Serb parliament in July 2001.
The pullout of the international presence, led by the new High Representative, Paddy Ashdown, who took office in May 2002, meanwhile continued and in October, the Communication Regulatory Agency (CRA) set up in March 2001 was turned over to substantial local control. Journalists in Bosnia-Herzegovina are not physically attacked or threatened, but they are subjected to political pressure such as advertising boycotts which can threaten the survival of a media outlet.
In a key decision for the principle of protecting journalistic sources, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) ruled in December that journalists working in war zones could not be forced to testify before an international court unless their evidence had a direct and crucial bearing on the basic elements of a case and the proof required could not be obtained from another source.
Pressure and obstruction
Senad Pecanin, editor of the weekly paper Dani, told a special session of the Helsinki Human Rights Committee in Sarajevo on 15 February that his paper might have to close because of an advertising boycott. The paper’s staff said it was because of criticism it had made of the government’s decision to hand over to the US six Algerians as part of investigations into the 11September attacks.
Former Washngton Post reporter Jonathan Randal was ordered by the ICTY on 7 June to give evidence about an interview he had in 1993 with former Bosnian Serb leader Radoslav Brdjanin, who was on trial for genocide with another Bosnian Serb leader, Momir Talic. He refused to do so and on 11 December the ICTY exempted him from testifying.
On 7 October, Bakir Hadjiomerovic, editor-in-chief of the FTV (Federal TV) programme "60 Minutes," was suspended from his job for a day by the head of the station, Jasmin Durakovic, for "lack of professionalism." The programme had shown former Bosnia-Herzegovina President Alija Izetbegovic and other members of the Muslim nationalist Democratic Action Party (SDA) with mujaheedin in the town of Bugojno, the most sensitive part of Bosnia. The report allegedly gave a bad image of the SDA, which had won general elections two days earlier.