The Government of Republika Srpska states in its latest report to the UN Security Council that according to the reports of the US government, the United States has long been trying to influence the elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina by financing the local media and that such efforts have intensified.
The document reads that foreign interference in BiH elections threatens to undermine the BiH democracy and that in the upcoming elections the citizens have to choose their leaders without the interference of any foreign country.
“Interference is both direct and indirect and comes from foreign embassies. Srpska has reasons for concern but it won’t deal with the reasons of the concern in this report. However, Srpska finds it important to draw attention to a long-lasting practice which aims to influence the election in BiH,” reads the third part of the 19th report of the Srpska Government to the UN Security Council entitled “Elections in BiH must be held without foreign interference.”
According to the report, the US government has been allocating significant resources for financing the media in BiH ever since the end of the war in 1995.
Even though the purpose of the financing is often said to be assistance to independent media, good-quality journalism and civil society in general, Srpska warns of its controversial influence on the local politics.
“Since the end of the war, the US government has given more than 100 million dollars to the media in BiH, which is most probably the biggest American help to media per capita. These funds are mainly directed through the US Agency for International Development /USAID/ and State Department through the EU Embassy in Sarajevo,” reads the report.
It underlines that the Office of the High Representative /OHR/ also has a role in monitoring the financing and administration of media organisations and institutions in BiH, and that the reports on the American financing of the media in BiH indicate the OHR’s involvement and intention to influence the elections.
The Srpska Government report to the Security Council recalls that between 2010 and 2017, the United States did not launch any major media financing programmes and that between 2017 and 2018 it launched at least three major financing programmes whose beneficiaries are mainly the media in BiH, and the total amount exceeds USD12 million.
In its 2018 budget, the US Congress allocated 18 million dollars for the Economic Support and Development Fund for BiH.
The funds allocated for 2018 are meant to “reduce sensitivity to Russian pressure, especially in energy and media sectors” and “support to independent media, elections, and democratic political processes.”
The Srpska Government report warns that the United States should reveal the data about all allocated funds and their purpose and stop using them to influence the elections.
“Many beneficiaries support or have close ties with the political parties and leaders in BiH. Everyone in the know in BiH will find it absolutely clear that significant financing of the media and NGOs in BiH is problematic for the political influence achieved with those funds,” reads the document.
In light of the current political climate in BiH, it is the Srpska Government’s view that all foreign funds should be allocated in a perfectly transparent manner.
“Responsibility is particularly important given the enormous funds provided by the US, the role of the OHR and the US Embassy in allocating the funds, the intention to use the funds to influence the elections, and the unequivocal history of illicit foreign intervention in BiH,” the document elaborates.
The third part of the report to the Security Council points out that this is in the interest of BiH citizens who deserve to be fully informed about media financing and that it should be in the interest of the citizens whose taxes pay for operations which aim to interfere in the elections of a European country.
“The current non-transparency of these processes ultimately undermines one of the main goals of these funds, and that is an improved trust in the media and institutions. The United States should stop financing the media in BiH in order to influence the elections in the country,” reads the third part of the report.