BH journalists: Cyber security and protection against online attacks are a key challenge for journalists in the Zenica region

Source/Author: BHJA

Zenica, 14.3.2024. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, we should demand from the state the construction of a long-term, comprehensive and institutional response to the frequent cyber violence and the increase in online threats to the media and journalists. Appointing contact points in police structures and prosecutor’s offices for better communication with the journalist community and more efficient investigations are only the first step in successfully solving this problem, which has very negative consequences for the work of the media and the entire BiH society. These are just some of the conclusions of the educational training held on Thursday in Zenica, organized by BH journalists and with the participation of journalists and editors from Žepče, Visoko, Tešnj and Zenica.



Training was organized with the aim of training journalists and media in the local community on the legal framework and protection mechanisms in cases of online threats and attacks, as well as adequate response to the challenges and consequences of this type of violence on the daily work of media professionals, including protection from hacker attacks on media houses.
Nermin Keranović, prosecutor in the Cantonal Prosecutor’s Office of the Canton of Sarajevo and at the same time one of the three prosecutors dealing with cyber crime, recalled the importance of appointing “contact persons” in the Sarajevo Cantonal Prosecutor’s Office in terms of better communication with injured journalists and the media and more effective investigation of specific attacks . He added that they have a certain number of reports from media companies dating back to 2021 and 2022, which this prosecutor’s office is working on solving, while in 2023 the number of hacker attacks was much lower.
“In circumstances where journalists or the media are victims of any criminal offense through an online attack, they have the option, after reporting, directly or through the BiH Journalists Association (BHJA), to inform the contact person that a criminal offense has been committed, and then within the prosecutor’s office itself to start an information system and start an investigation”, said Keranović.
He added that all criminal acts committed against journalists and the media are treated as priorities in the prosecution, and the supervision of the chief cantonal prosecutor in Sarajevo Canton has been established over them. Keranović also believes that journalists and media outlets themselves should be aware of the dangers of cyber attacks and all forms of digital threats.
“Journalists and the media themselves need to take certain steps for self-protection, that is, to maintain their own security of communication channels and to be very careful when using all social networks. Knowledge of minimum security measures, which include the use of strong and unique passwords, double identification, as well as the use of reliable VPN services when accessing the Internet, especially in public places, are basic tools for basic and preventive protection,” prosecutor Keranović concluded.
The police are obliged to provide maximum security to the members of the journalistic community when publishing journalistic assignments, said Aldina Alić from the Police Administration of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Zenica-Doboj Canton (ZDK) and added that in order for the police to react, it is necessary that each case needs to be reported in a timely manner.
“After the report, the police act, first establishing the existence of the elements of a criminal offense or misdemeanor. Not every bad word sent is a criminal offense on social networks, and I especially emphasize that so that citizens know. We also need inter-institutional cooperation, that is, work on improving the institutional response to cases of endangering the safety of journalists and increasing sensitivity towards the protection of journalists of all structures and mechanisms within the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Zenica-Doboj Canton,” said Alić.
She assessed the appointment of “contact points” in the Ministry of Internal Affairs as a positive step – in terms of increasing efficiency in investigations of cyber and other online attacks on the media and journalists, and announced new measures to be taken by the Ministry of Internal Affairs – in Zenica – Doboj Canton, which relate to on the creation of their own database and monitoring of various cases, as well as the education of police officers in order to expand their knowledge regarding investigations and treatment of journalists and the media as victims of attacks and threats.
Velida Kulenović, vice-president of BHJA and president of the BHN Club of Journalists of ZDK emphasizes the importance of trainings and educations like this.
“The trainings started by BHJA are of great benefit to journalists as well as the media. I hope that as many journalists as possible, especially young ones, will have the opportunity to attend them. The Helpline operating within BH journalists recorded 35 reports, of which 24 were reports of cyber attacks on journalists and the media. Education on data collection in the case of digital protection processing is extremely important for the media community,” concluded Kulenović.
Educational training was organized as part of USAID’s Independent Media Support Program (MEA) in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which is implemented by Internews in partnership with the organization FHI360 and local partners.
The organization of the training and the publication of this report were made possible thanks to the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The content is the sole responsibility of the BH Journalists Association and does not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the US Government.