Coalition for Media Freedom: The Law on “Foreign Agents” Introduces Censorship in Republika Srpska

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Source/Author: IJAS

The Coalition for Media Freedom expresses solidarity with the media and civil sector in the Republika Srpska and calls on the Government of the RS to withdraw the Proposal for the Law on a Special Register and Publicity of the Work of Non-Profit Organizations, which will be presented to the members of the National Assembly of the RS on May 22.

The essence of this Law is to restrict the space for any action to associations and media that are registered as citizens’ associations (and which are also financed by international organizations).

The adoption of the proposed regulation would threaten the human rights of all citizens, further violate freedom of expression in the region, and potentially put employees in the media and non-governmental organizations in physical danger – due to the stigmatization of individual organizations as “agents of foreign influence”.

The proposal, which has already been condemned by the general public, the non-profit sector and the international community, is particularly worrying because it leaves the institutions of Republika Srpska with the possibility to arbitrarily determine what constitutes “political activity”, which directly threatens the freedom of expression, guaranteed by Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, as well as the Constitutions of BiH and RS.

The discretionary rights of the Ministry of Justice of the RS (which, with the adoption of the law, would officially begin to “monitor” the work of media and non-governmental organizations) would in fact enable censorship of all those who objectively and timely report on the work of the institutions there.

All the countries of the Western Balkans (except North Macedonia) have fallen behind on Reporters Without Borders’ World Media Freedom Index. Bosnia and Herzegovina recorded the biggest drop in the region, by as many as 17 places compared to last year.

The Coalition for Media Freedom believes that the implementation of the new undemocratic law would not only worsen this result, but would also call into question the survival of the entire media and non-profit sector in BiH, which is why we appeal to the Ministry of Justice of the Republika Srpska and the representatives in the National Assembly of the RS to prevent its adoption.

The Coalition for Media Freedom: the Association of Media, the Association of Online Media (AOM), the Independent Association of Journalists of Vojvodina (NDNV), the Independent Journalists’ Association of Serbia (NUNS), the Business Association of Local and Independent Media “Local Press”, the Slavko Curuvija Foundation and Branch Trade Union of Culture, Arts and Media ‘Nezavisnost’