By Medina Malagic – Sarajevo
On 3 May 2013, a public campaign called “Građani i novinari zajedno u borbi za istinu” (Citizens and Journalists Together in the Fight For The Truth) was organized in BiH today on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of World Press Freedom Day by the BiH Youth Press Association and the BiH Press Council.
The United Nations General Assembly proclaimed world Press Freedom Day on 3 May 1993, and since then this day has been celebrated every year throughout the world. Not only is this a day to celebrate and emphasize the fundamental principles of press freedom, but also its purpose is to assess the level of press freedom throughout the world.
The theme for this year’s World Press Freedom Day is “Safe to Speak: Securing Freedom of Expression in Media”. This theme was reverberated today on the streets of 25 cities throughout BiH, which will gather all those committed to securing freedom of the press for a public awareness campaign on the freedom, or more precisely, the lack of freedom of expression and responsibility of journalists, rights of citizens to access accurate information and the right to point out when there are inaccuracies and/or biases in media reporting.
The protracted economic and political crisis has revealed the vulnerability of press freedom in BiH, where immense pressure is still put on all forms of media outlets by politicians, and attacks and threats against journalists is not uncommon. The importance of this day for BiH is significant, especially given the country’s aspirations to join the EU.
In an official statement, The EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton highlighted the importance of this day for the EU: “A free, independent and vibrant press is indispensable in any democratic society. The EU is determined to fight for press freedom worldwide and condemns the increasing level of intimidation, violence and censorship that journalists face in many countries. The EU calls on all governments to allow journalists to wok in safety and security, and without the fear of censorship or prosecution”.
As part of the activities to mark this day, the BiH Youth Press Association formulated a survey that was carried out today to mark World Press Freedom Day on the streets of many cities throughout BiH. The survey contains four multiple-choice questions and one short answer question. These are questions that seek to ascertain the level of the awareness of the general public on their rights to complain about inaccurate reporting, whether they notice the proliferation of hate speech in the media, whether they think hate speech has an effect on citizens of BiH, if they think there is freedom of the press in BiH, and a more detailed question on what BiH citizens expect of the media.
The BiH Youth Press Association sees the compilation of answers from the survey research and its subsequent analysis as crucial in determining the level of public awareness on their rights when it comes to unbiased and accurate media reporting, because it is a democratic right of citizens to complain in the case of inaccuracy in media reporting.
According to the BiH Youth Press Association “Citizens should be aware that any pressure on journalists and suppression of freedom of information is an attack on the democratic development of society and the development of citizens’ rights and freedom. One of the fundamental rights of citizens is the right to truthful and timely information”.
Thus, a growing awareness of citizens of their rights would enable them to more clearly see that they are not merely passive observers who should receive media reporting and accept it uncritically, but that they play an integral part, and that the media permeates all aspects of the development of society and how citizens relate to one another, and the media has an opportunity to have a very positive effect on society.
This public campaign can be seen as a vital grassroots initiative, an attempt to initiate action with a bottom-up approach in resolving the multitude of problems that serves to curtail press freedom in BiH.