The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today condemned the Republika Srpska government after the Vice President, Anton Kasipovic, announced a boycott of Bosnia Herzegovina’s state-wide public broadcaster, BHT 1, on 12 January.
Initially the boycott was restricted to requests for interviews, but appeared to be have been extended to a total ban when a BHT 1 journalist crew was refused access to a government press conference in Banja Luka on Wednesday.
“This is a direct attack on the independence of the public service broadcaster and its ability to cover political affairs” said Oliver Money Kyrle, IFJ Director of Programmes. “The public broadcaster is there to serve and inform the Bosnian public, not the politicians. The government should immediately end its boycott and pressure for changes in the editorial staffing of BHT 1.”
The Republika Srpska government justified its action as a response to alleged bias, citing BHT 1’s failure to give adequate prominence in the news to the ‘Day of Republika Srpska’ celebrated on 9th January. It also complained that its politicians had received unfair treatment on two political shows ‘Truly Speaking’ and ‘Public Secret’.
The Trade Union of Employees of RTV BiH, the union representing BHT 1 staff, has criticised the new Board of Governors for their failure to issue any public statement in defence of its staff and their independence. Instead they are concerned that the recent replacement of the PSB Director, Drago Maric is a result of political pressure from Republica Srpska. His replacement, Mehmed Agovic, has been further instructed to dismiss the BHT 1 Programme Director, Milan Trivic.
“The management board is there to protect the editorial independence of its staff from external political interference,” added Money-Kyrle. “In order to restore public confidence in the board we urge it to issue an immediate public statement in defence of its editors, and to give assurances that nobody will be removed as a result of political pressure.”
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The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries worldwide