SARAJEVO, 20.04.2020. – The Steering Committee of the BH Journalists Association publicly requests that the Municipal Civil Protection Staff of Stari Grad in Sarajevo urgently abolish the Order banning disturbance of public order and peace by causing panic and disorder in the area of the Municipality of Stari Grad Sarajevo, which was issued on April 10 this year. The said order prohibits “the presentation or transmission of panic-causing news, interfering with the enforcement of decisions and measures by municipal authorities and other institutions” through the media, social networks and other communication means, with sanctions for potential offenders from 1,000 to 9,000 BAM.
This order represents a harsh attack on freedom of the media, freedom of expression and the right of individuals to publicly express their views, and gives disproportionately large rights and opportunities for individuals, in this case to persons from the Municipal Civil Protection Staff of Stari Grad Sarajevo, to censor the media and restrict citizens’ right to freedom expressions through social networks.
The BH Journalists Steering Committee recalls that a similar order was issued in Republika Srpska on April 6, but was repealed late last week under strong pressure from the public, the professional journalism community and the civilian sector. The BH Journalists Association welcomes the decision to withdraw the disputed order, and at the same time ask the competent structures in RS to suspend all misdemeanor proceedings against citizens initiated on the basis of its provisions.
The Steering Committee of BH Journalists reiterates that the period of Covid-19 and the extraordinary circumstances for all citizens, institutions and the media should by no means be an excuse for introduction of censorship or any other restrictions on the freedom of expression and information for all journalists and citizens. It is especially unacceptable for individuals in the public administration or police structures to use this period of the coronavirus pandemic to deal with political opponents or the media outlets who criticize them publicly. In this context, BH Journalists absolutely require all state bodies, crisis staffs and governments across BiH to withdraw any decisions or orders that may have negative implications for the free and safe work of the media and journalists, as well as citizens’ rights to freedom of opinion and criticism through social media networks.