BH Journalists: Public protest to Milorad Dodik due to direct threats to Siniša Vukelić, member of the BHJA Steering Committee and president of the Press Club Banja Luka

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Sarajevo/Banja Luka, 08.03.2023. – The Steering Committee of the BH Journalists Association (BHJA) sends a public protest to the president of Republika Srpska, Milorad Dodik, regarding direct threats to Siniša Vukelić, a member of the Steering Committee of BH Journalists and the president of the BHJA Press Club Banja Luka, and the insulting of hundreds of journalists who oppose the criminalization of defamation by calling them a “specters”.

At the press conference held today in Banja Luka, Milorad Dodik commented in an inappropriate and threatening manner on the legitimate struggle of journalists and the media against the criminalization of defamation and the draft amendments to the Criminal Code of Republika  Srpska, and announced rigorous measures against the NGO sector and associations financed by donor funds.

Dodik explained to journalists in Banja Luka that “in its law, the USA calls foreign NGO’s or those financed by foreigners ‘foreign agents on the territory of the USA’”, and he announced that Republika Srpska will adopt the same terminology and that “instead of the USA, it will be written Republika Srpska”. He emphasized that the law under preparation implies the reporting of every type of transaction and every activity of the NGO sector.

The Steering Committee of BH Journalists warns that such announcements by the president of Republika Srpska represent a new attack on freedom of expression and freedom of association through unacceptable attempts to limit the work of the non-governmental sector. After the media community, legal experts and international organizations criticized the announced changes to the Criminal Code of the RS, which seek to criminalize defamation,and punish citizens and journalists with draconian fines of up to 100,000 BAM, Milorad Dodik apparently decided to go one step further in demonstrating the rule of force in Republika Srpska, which increasingly resembles dictatorial systems.

Speaking about the amendments to the Criminal Code of Republika Srpska related to the criminalization of defamation, the president of the RS stated that “there are individuals who want to buy the journalistic community for themselves in order to supposedly protect it” and asked “where were those free journalists” when former high representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina Valentin Inzko imposed amendments to the Criminal Code of BiH which sanction the denial of the genocide in Srebrenica and the glorification of war crimes.

It is evident that Milorad Dodik and those who support him want to silence independent, investigative, free journalism at any cost, as well as representatives of the NGO sector who investigate and analyze the moves of the ruling structures by exposing, among other, numerous corruption affairs and the non-transparent spending of millions of budget money, and that they are more than determined in these intentions.

The Steering Committee of BH Journalists once again calls on the entire media community and all relevant domestic and international organizations to decisively raise their voice in the fight against the media darkness that threatens Republika Srpska!