The 6th South East Europe Media Conference, organized by the Office of the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media (RFoM) in co-operation with the OSCE Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), concluded today in Sarajevo. The event gathered around 200 journalists and media professionals from the region and abroad to discuss media developments, safety of journalists, the legal environment for media freedom, and sustainable solutions for public service broadcasters.
“The testimonies we heard from journalists of the region, as well as from various media and legal experts, show that the media freedom situation in the region is serious. The development of a pluralistic and independent media is hindered by the concentration of media ownership, unfair competition rules for access to financing and commercial advertisement, and strong political interference in the editorial policies of many media. This is stifling the development of new, independent and critical media. At the same time, many journalists are still harassed, threatened or attacked because of their reporting,” said OSCE RFoM Harlem Désir.
The participants highlighted that safety of journalists continues to be one of the major challenges. “Journalists continue to be in danger simply for doing their jobs – and Bosnia and Herzegovina is no exception. They are sued, threatened and physically assaulted. The statistics point to a deteriorating media environment, but cold numbers do little to convey the harsh reality of this problem,” said Head of the OSCE Mission to BiH Bruce G. Berton.
The conference served as a platform for the exchange of experiences and best practices with local and international experts and civil society organizations, among them RSF, ARTICLE 19, IFEX, the European federation of journalists and the European Broadcasting Union.
The Representative also underlined the need to support diversity, security and solidarity for media development in the region.
Following the conference, a new set of recommendations will be sent by the RFoM to the authorities of the region, to help shape policies which support media development and pluralism, safety of journalists, sustainable and independent public service media, and a legal environment supportive of freedom of expression and media freedom.
“Media freedom, pluralism, quality information, and investigative journalism are key to the democratic future of the region,” the Representative stated. “My Office will continue to flag and monitor the media freedom situation as well as to provide legal assistance, to remind participating States of their OSCE commitments and obligations to improve and ensure respect for media freedom.”