Bosnia and Herzegovina lacks a culture of respect for human rights, media freedoms and critical thinking, and it is necessary to redesign journalistic values in order to return the main epithet to the journalistic profession, which is freedom of critical thinking and promotion of journalism as a free profession,in which there is no place for either censorship or self-censorship. This was highlighted during the online conference “Media Freedom: Have We Become a Society of Censorship and Self-Censorship”, which was held today through the Zoom platform, organized by the Education Centre “Pro Educa”, with the support of the Embassy ofthe Kingdom of the Netherlands. The research, conducted by the Education Center “Pro Educa” and the Association of BH Journalists during 2019, showed that about 43.4% of media workers face censorship while performing their professional tasks, while 48.8% faced self-censorship. These data show that more effective involvement of institutions, media associations and organizations, academia, as well as international and domestic civil society organizations in the fight for media freedom and freedom of expression, as well as the public’s right to accurate and comprehensive information is necessary. At the beginning of the conference, Reinout Vos, Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to BiH, emphasized that he was happy and proud that Pro Educa, with the support of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, through the Matra program, contributes to the transformation of BiH society.
“This project specifically does that through the promotion of freedom of expression, protection of journalists and media independence. These issues are crucial for all democratic societies, especially in times of crisis such as the one with the COVID-19 pandemic, and for that I am especially grateful that we will discuss these issues with students and professors of journalism. Media independence and the safety of journalists in BiH is an issue that needs to be addressed and improved, and that is why student presence and interest in these topics isnecessary and very important”, Vos said, adding that the fight for human rights, including freedom of expression, is one of the most important preconditions for Bosnia and Herzegovina’s accession to the European Union.
Srdjan Puhalo, program director of the #SloboduNarodu festival, which will be held from June 17 to 19 in Sarajevo, says that this festival affirms what is deficient in BiH, namely freedom of speech and opinion, protection of journalists and critical thinking, and that today’s conference is one of the introductory activities with which “Pro Educa” wants to discussone of the very interesting, but also marginalized topics of censorship / self-censorship in the media and society. “The first thing that came to my mind is that we don’t really know what is behind that (self) censorship, and I think that in some future period we should analyze those deeper motives of (self) censorship. Is it a fear of something, are journalists cowards, or is it perhaps a fear of economic consequences, job loss, salary cuts, and marginalization? Is it at the root of self-censorship and to what extent is patriotism, and do journalists keep silent about many things because they think it is not good to say something at a certain moment?”,Puhalo is of the opinion, adding that as a psychologist, he is very interested in how self-censorship and censorship affect themental health of media workers.
The conference participants concluded that it is necessary to change the circumstances in which journalists work, and to improve the culture of respect for human rights, media freedoms and critical thinking, as well as to advocate transparency of media ownership, media financing andchange of criminal laws in BiH, whichwill enable no attack on media workers to pass without condemnatory solutions for the attackers. Today’s conference was held within the project “Free mind” which implements Education Centre “Pro Educa” from Banja Luka with the support of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in BiH. The project promotes the idea of freedom of speech, freedom of opinion and expression, independent journalism, protection of journalists and critical observation of social phenomena. As part of the project, from June 17 to 19, 2021, the #SlobodaNarodu Festival will be held, which for the first time in Bosnia and Herzegovina will gather famous participants from these areas from the entire region, who will participate in a series of lectures and panel discussions.