SARAJEVO/BANJA LUKA, 23.03.2023. – The Steering Committee of the BH Journalists Association and the Free Media Help Line consider today’s decision of the National Assembly of Republika Srpska (NSRS) to adopt the Draft Law on the criminalization of defamation to be a defeat for democracy, free society and free journalism.
This procedure should be remembered as a textbook example of the irresponsible behavior of 49 MPs who, by voting “yes”, deprived their voters – citizens of Republika Srpska, journalists, media outlets, civil society organizations and all other institutions and organizations of their right to freedom of expression and opinion, free dissemination and receiving information.
In addition to disregarding the interests of citizens, the ruling coalition in the NSRS has shown not only that it does not know international standards for the protection of freedom of expression and the media, but that it does not respect the proposals, requests and recommendations of domestic media and journalist associations, international organizations such as the United Nations, the European Union, the Council of Europe , OSCE, European media associations, embassies and all others who tried to explain to the MPs the harmfulness of their procedure and the restriction of the right to freedom of expression.
The Steering Committee of BH Journalists emphasizes that we will not agree to any discussion on the draft of this law. The least we expect in the coming days from the Government of Republika Srpska is to withdraw the law from the parliamentary procedure at the first next session. BH Journalists call on all other journalists, journalist associations, media and activists to put this process on stand by, exclude themselves from public consultations and not give any legitimacy to the SNSD and its political satellites.
We have only one request: withdraw the Draft Law from further parliamentary procedure! We will never agree to media darkness and trade in our right to freedom of expression.
Due to the suppression of media freedom, dozens of portals in Republika Srpska and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina blacked out their pages today. This darkness is still symbolic. If defamation is criminalized in the way that the ruling structures in the RS envisioned it, media darkness, but also darkness for all free-thinking citizens, will become a harsh reality.
At the same time, BH Journalists are pushing for an even stronger campaign against the criminalization of defamation in Republika Srpska and all of Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as the use of all international instruments to defend the right to freedom of expression and freedom of the media.