There is a need for standardization of processes regarding the allocation of public funds to media in BiH


SARAJEVO, 12.10.2018.-Through the work of CPI Foundation (Public Interest Advocacy Center), we collect, check and release all information regarding budget details at all govern- ing levels in Bosnia and Herzegovina, including nonbudget funds.

We often attempted and tried to discover and check certain information, regarding the amount of money that governing official authorities allocate for certain purposes, and to compare this information with non – financial based information and these include the information regarding population statistics in certain areas, number of service users, number of pupils/students in particular areas, number of employees, satisfaction in relation how governing officials manage to fulfill and resolve their problems from their competences point of view etc.), and we couldn’t even complete our research and survey once; we couldn’t determine and confirm amounts of money being subject to our survey or even determine particular percentage included, as far as this survey is concerned.

The reason for this “failure” is most probably the fact that research and survey, regarding money spending by the public sector officials in BiH, has always been considered as rather transcendental, inaccurate and various and different categories usually sums up in the report, creating general confusion. This surely does not happen unintentionally and by accident, as it concerns the governing levels and mechanisms, in regard with government financing biased to war – veteran organizations and associations, including religious communities and naturally, media financing as well.

We are not certain about the amount of money dispersed and aimed directly for the work of private and public media houses, because there are several ways of registering these kinds of transfers, including the following: grants allocated to private enterprises, grants allocated to individuals, grants allocated to organizations, since certain media houses have ties with companies and organizations, financing particular construction works conducted on public buildings and facilities, where the entrepreneur and owner of this building is usually the owner of media house itself, assistance and help aimed to media houses, financing media houses that should monitor the work of municipal administration, monitor financing processes through various greeting commercial advertisements for Christmases, Easters, Eids etc. It is also difficult to follow from which governing levels certain media houses receive grants, funds and get finances.

Moreover, no one is following how much money for announcing miscellaneous announcements and releases in media houses is spent by public enterprises, including vacancy ads, greeting messages and posts, advertisement of different kinds, announcements aimed for their end users (clients), etc. Sometimes, journalists and editors receive certain amounts of finances for additional education. Official politicians are in a position to make an impact regarding the allocation of amounts aimed for media houses for various campaigns financed and funded from both, local/domestic and foreign sources. Media campaigns provide political governing levels with an opportunity to conduct money laundry and to get their hands on cash as well. Arresting and investigations in Croatia proved and confirmed that this is quite easy to conduct and implement and we should suspect that these criminal deeds are present in our country too. In demonstrating the power of control over media houses, we should not just refer to a “carrot, but also to stick”.

Some individuals and governing political parties, including powerful, rich and influential figures, do not hesitate from directing threats, taking revenge and punishing journalists and editors that investigate and write texts, articles or stories that are against their interests. Journalists and editors are therefore very hard to protect from, because the methods of organized crime, pervading with politics, are similar in the whole world. If the vengeance taken against certain journalists would seem easy to identify and recognize by the officials; journalists’ and editor’s family would then consequently become the next victims to be punished instead.

Journalists and editors do not get punished by death, as was the case in European Union, namely in Malta and Slovakia where investigative reporters and journalists were murdered and their murders were ordered by governing officials and mafia members. In this case journalist’s female partner was killed because he was investigating the ties and connections between Calabrian Ndargheta with the Slovakian government regarding the misuses of EU Funds and Grants. Just as there are enough room and space for journalists, editors and media entrepreneurs to protect themselves from pressures, manipulations, threats, and punishments they are being imposed with, we can also see that there are enough room and space for making the present situation worse, by taking over the legal acquis from European Union practice.

We can see that, pursuant to official statements, releases, and reactions by the European Union officials, these kinds of tragic events were taken with regret by the EU officials and that EU officials publically condemned these accidents and associated occurrences; however they failed to provide protection for journalists and we know that no one took legal responsibility and no one was proceeded for murdering a journalist or journalists. According to my knowledge, the case of Zeljko Kopanja has never been terminated and successfully completed, despite the fact that all services, both local and foreign, were engaged with this case and involved in the investigation process. This was the case of a car bomb assassination attempt on Zeljko Kopanja, who, as a result of severe injuries, lost both his legs and lived as disabled person, which deprived him of normal life.

In this text, we shall take a look and review social media field; platforms falsely presented as something else, rather than media houses, so they could eventually avoid material and moral responsibilities for media announcements and releases in media that actually announce these kinds of announcements, releases, and statements. Although glorified at the beginning, as a tool for netting positive, affirmative, progressive society forces, as arms required for the democratization of totalitarian or authoritarian societies with numerous democratic deficits, they have quickly transformed into something opposite, namely they transferred into the tool of conservative and reactional forces, opponents of human rights, minority rights, migrants rights, women reproductive rights, science opponents cleverness, ecology, vaccine and common sense in general.

They also proved to be very effective, easy to handle and use and with great effect in regard to what had been invested. Greatest and best settled and arranged country systems (USA, United Kingdom, and Germany) have not been able to resist negative effects deriving from social media and accordingly making an impact on democratic processes, elections, and referendums, and I am therefore convinced that the chances of BiH having settled this field are minimized. Under such conditions, where regularity of election or referendum processes and prevention of manipulation of voters cannot be ensured, certain questions and issues emerge, such as: What is the next stage, which system of participation of citizens in election and control of governments shall be introduced, because the elections process at present, that is, as with fair and honest method, is definitely over.

Until all issues are resolved and particular but serious reforms emerge at a global level, which shall hopefully include our country, perhaps thorough pre-accession processes, we cannot stand still; do nothing about this issue and despair. There are numerously accepted and implemented recommendations that may serve as steps in the right direction in order to provide and ensure fair and transparent media environment in BiH. Standardization of processes regarding the allocation of public financial means that would consist of public invitations, public applications, public valuing of applications, public selection of media that are entitled and deserve to be funded, financed, donated or granted, following, measuring and monitoring of accomplished results and effects is possible to obtain.

Failing to follow and fulfill the above-mentioned standards should consequently result in fining and penalizing media houses, including penalizing public administrative body that was in charge with allocation process of financial means granted to that media house and finally, fining all persons responsible in this entire process. Public media houses should be included in regular budget planning procedures, but they should also be obliged to abide defined limits of commercial contents. At present, many of them still receive grants on an ad hoc basis and this is simply a shorter halter for better and more efficient media control.

Complete ownership media structure of all media houses and all ties and connections with legal and physical entities shall, during this and previous year, proactively be posted on official media websites. All state budgets at all levels, or at least on Entity levels and districts shall be unified and their spending shall be channeled pursuant to professional rules; for optimal range of target groups with minimum investments toward verified information regarding audience viewership, listening and reading information.

State bodies, regulatory bodies, police and judicial bodies cannot remain passive and observe anomalies occurring on social media pages where (with reasonably limited investments) a great damage (in terms of posting false and incorrect news) can be caused as result, including encouraging specific groups to lynch an individual or groups and common public backwardness. Skilled professionals working in institutions and agencies must start with the direct launching of effective communication-based channels with largest networks and legal experts must start working thoroughly on legislative framework regarding the regulation of social media and networks and also start creating the legal foundation for strategic litigation.

Without this proactive conduct by the governing official authorities, physical and legal entities in BiH, participants of political processes, entrepreneurs, businessmen, journalists, and activists shall remain unprotected and this is exactly where I see the biggest threat for media houses in BiH, including media employees and including media influence and impact on democratic processes in BiH.

This text is a part of E-Bulletin– seventh edition of special serial of BHN online bulletin implemented through the “Media and Public Reputation” (origin. “Mediji i javni ugled”) project, also representing a contribution to public debate regarding the transparency of media ownership and upholding and encouraging the passing of set of laws aimed to advance media field and information market in BiH.

Zoran Ivančić, BHN Bulletin E-journalist, Sarajevo, 12/10/2018