Republic of Srpska, Bosnia and Herzegovina: IFJ and EFJ call for defamation to remain under civil law

President of the Republic of Srpska Milorad Dodik has threatened to re-introduce defamation and insults as “criminal offences” in the Criminal Code of the Republic of Srpska, one of the two entities in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The BH Journalists Association (BH Novinari) sounded the alarm in the face of the increasing threat that would cause the impending criminalisation of defamation, which has been a civil wrong in the country since 1999.


The International and European Federations of Journalists (IFJ-EFJ) join their affiliate, BH Novinari, in warning of the dangers of criminalising defamation and urged the European Commission and Council of Europe to call on the Government of the Republic of Srpska and its President Milorad Dodik to cancel the proposal.

Making defamation a crime would undermine the principles of media freedom and threaten journalists independent of the authorities who could face between three and five years of imprisonment for expressing their views. The use of civil law has so far helped avoid public and influential figures abusing their power and threatening media freedom by using intimidating legal avenues to prevent stories from being told. Returning defamation to the criminal legislation would open up the possibility of judicial prosecution of journalists and media outlets, and lead to abuse of the legal system to intimidate and silence journalists.

If the bill is passed, the country will also face two different standards for defamation as the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the second entity within the State of Bosnia and Herzegovina, will still treat cases of defamation under civil law. Such disparities would have a significant and negative impact on the overall security, legal certainty and legal equality of citizens in the country.

BH Novinari highlughted the fact that there are currently more than 300 active defamation cases open in BiH in the framework of civil lawsuits, and dozens of SLAPPs lawsuits (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation)

"In democratic societies, they should do this as individuals, and not use their political power or threaten journalists with prison and the strength of their own political position and the influence of the institution in which they sit,” says BH Novinari.

The link to BH Novinari’s petition can be found here. No date has been given as to when the bill could be passed into law.

For more information, please contact IFJ on +32 2 235 22 16

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