Declaration against the criminalization of defamation in Republika Srpska signed

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BANJA LUKA, 07.02.2023. – Representatives of civil society organizations and independent media signed a declaration in which they strongly oppose and condemn the announcements of representatives of the institutions of Republika Srpska that within the framework of the Criminal Code of RS, acts will be prescribed that will criminalize defamation and insult.

The declaration was signed by the Association for the Promotion of European Standards and the Improvement of the Business Environment, the Helsinki Parliament of Banjaluka citizens, Transparency International BiH, Center for Human Rights Banja Luka, Center for the Environment, Banjaluka Journalists’ Club/BH Journalists, the Association of Citizens “Zdravo da ste”, the Association  “eTrafika” and the Center for Informational Decontamination of Youth.

After the conference “How much freedom will we have left?”, which was organized by the Banjaluka Journalists’ Club, Capital.ba portal and the Friedrich Ebert Foundation Banjaluka, they pointed out that they are very concerned that the announced passing of the law on fake news will be used against independent media, journalists and activists, in order to silence dissent within the society of Republika Srpska and prevent the free work of journalists, associations and individuals in RS.

“Convinced that RS must in the future be characterized by the rule of law, democratic institutions, a pluralistic society and more freedoms for its citizens, we also express our disagreement with the expansion of criminal offenses against the constitutional order and announcements of the adoption of new laws in that direction, as it is very possible that such a legal initiative is used to intimidate representatives of the media and NGO sector, as well as individuals who express views contrary to those held by the authorities in Republika Srpska”, the Declaration pointed out.

The initiators of the Declaration are warning the public that changes to current laws and adoption of new announced laws would lead to the creation of a repressive environment and revanchism towards dissenters, which would represent a departure from democratic ideals, which we hope Republika Srpska strives for.

“In democratic societies, institutions should strive to strengthen the critical awareness of citizens, increasing their rights and freedoms, and not go in the opposite direction by trying to practically ban a different thought from the one that is desirable through the law. We believe that the Criminal Code and other laws must not be changed in any way to the detriment of the rights and freedoms of citizens. It would be particularly dangerous if the adoption of new and amendments to existing laws were to be carried out in an urgent legislative procedure,” they stated.

Behavior that rewrites laws to benefit individuals, one party or certain interest groups is a characteristic of one-party systems or those that tend to do so, in which there is no democratic consciousness, nor a true rule of law, and it is the duty of the media to point out these things.

Read the full text of the Declaration HERE.