Media outlets in BiH don’t have adequate internal mechanisms to protect journalists

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SARAJEVO, 10.02.2023. – Most of the media outlets in Bosnia and Herzegovina do not have any legal acts or protocols related to the protection of journalists within the newsrooms and handling cases of attacks on journalists and other employees. On the other hand, journalists emphasize that the support of their newsrooms in such situations is of crucial importance for them, it was said today during the presentation of the results of the research “Internal capacities and needs of the media in the field of protection and safety of journalists in Bosnia and Herzegovina“, conducted by BH Journalists Association at the end of 2022 and the beginning of 2023.

According to the author of the research, prof.dr.  Zarfa Hrnjić-Kuduzović, the main goal of the research was to examine the sensibility of management – editors and media owners towards journalists who face attacks and pressures.

“It has been shown that the media in BiH mostly don’t have adequate internal mechanisms for the protection of their employees, and that journalists, more than editors, recognize the need to adopt such protocols. We have a lot of positive examples, but unfortunately also those where journalists who experienced attacks, pressures or threats do not have any support from their editors. This most often happens in media that are financed from local and cantonal budgets”, says Zarfa Hrnjić-Kuduzović.

The research was conducted through an online survey in which 116 journalists and other media professionals, as well as editors, directors and owners from 61 media outlets participated. Also, 10 in-depth interviews were conducted with female journalists on the subject of gender equality within newsrooms. About three-quarters of respondents believe that gender equality is represented in newsrooms, but the problem is that only 12% of media outlets have regulations on promotion.

It’s interesting that journalists generally do not perceive this as a problem. There are no clear gender policies on the promotion of female journalists in the media, as well as protocols on respecting gender equality. Also, a large number of journalists don’t know if there is an internal act in the media where they work regarding their protection and support in cases where their rights are violated and their safety is threatened“, states the author of the research.

Media that are interested in adopting internal documents in the field of employee protection and safety need external help in the form of draft security policies/protocols that they would adapt to their way of functioning, as well as training in this area. According to the general secretary of the BH Journalists Association, Borka Rudić, BH journalists will create security protocols and offer them to the newsrooms.

“From our perspective, it’s very important that the media expressed their willingness to be helped in drafting a protocol for the protection of journalists’ rights. A journalist who has the support of his newsroom will more easily carry out difficult and demanding journalistic tasks”,  concludes Rudić.

The research was conducted within the framework of the regional project “Strengthening media freedom in Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia and Serbia“, which is financed by the Government of the Netherlands through MATRA program, and implemented by the organizations Free Press Unlimited and the Netherlands Helsinki Committee from Amsterdam, together with journalist associations from these three countries.