BiH: Journalists a COVID-19 collateral damage

BiH: Journalists a COVID-19 collateral damage

The Steering Committee of the BH Journalists Association urged media employers in BiH, media owners and board members to stop the layoffs of journalists and other media professionals as an economic measure and response to the financial crisis within the media industry caused by the coronavirus pandemic and drastic reductions in commercial and other revenues, stresses the Association in a statement.

The Association also warned that the state institutions should financialy help the media to survive or it would call journalists “to boycott all press conferences and events organized by BiH authorities and crisis staffs”.

“With regret and protest, BH Journalists received information about the termination of the employment contracts to a significant number of journalists and other media professionals in the Oslobodjenje company, as well as announcing similar procedures in at least 10 media outlets in different parts of the country”, says the Association.

BH Journalists are urging the owners and management of Oslobođenje Newspaper to reconsider their decision, try to retain people and look for other, alternative ways of overcoming financial difficulties. This outlet is one of the oldest in BiH and did not stop printing even during the 1992-1995 war. It received the award “The best newspaper 1992” and many other awards. In the last few days, a large number of journalists and other media employees were called to voluntarily sign the termination of their contracts. BH Journalists warned all journalists not to do that, because by signing they resign from their basic rights.

“We are fully aware of the fact that, as a journalist’s association, we have no legal authority, nor can we dictate to the owners of the media outlets, including the owners of Oslobođenje, what economic measures they will bring, but we can demand that the reduction of the number of employees, if necessary, be carried out lawfully, without discrimination, in consultation with the union of employees and with full protection of the labour and social rights of journalists”, said the journalist Association.

The Steering Committee of BH Journalists also warns that reducing the number of media employees can only temporarily halt or delay the economic collapse that threatens all media in BiH in the next six months. Crisis staffs, governments at all levels or relevant media organizations have not yet taken urgent economic measures to save the media industry and preserve the public function of the media, which was their task!

“We, therefore, urge the competent governments, media institutions and international donors to form an emergency media fund, which will enable the production of professional and diverse media content in the public interest. Since the declaration of the state of emergency in Republica Srpska and the state of disaster in BiH, the media outlets and journalists have been a service to all citizens and key transmitters of information regarding the coronavirus pandemic, with no indication from the authorities that they are ready to help the media outlets survive financially. If they do not do so soon, BH Journalists will invite the media to boycott all press conferences and events organized by BiH authorities and crisis staffs”, warns the Association./ibna