By Medina Malagic – Sarajevo
The social unrest that has engulfed many cities and towns in B&H over the past month, which transformed from the anger-feuled burning of government institutions to the increasingly organized plenums or citizens assemblies in eight of the ten cantons of the FB&H, as well as daily protests, threatens to challenge the dominant power structure. This is the first time in 20 years, since the end of the conflict in B&H, that many B&H citizens, those involved in daily protests and citizens’ assemblies are expressing a united stance against the political establishment.
This is threatening because it directly undermines the ethno-nationalist political platform by the ruling political parties in B&H that has been used to retain the status quo, resulting in the massive socio-economic problems for many citizens of B&H, as well as an unemployment rate of about 47%.
With such a threat posed, misinformation and propaganda have been the tools employed to take the focus away from the actual problems and causes of the daily protests and plenums, and instead focus on headlines that take the focus away from the actual causes and problems. For example, over the past two weeks the focus in the media regarding the protestors in Sarajevo has been the heavy traffic and difficulty in getting around the city as a result of the daily blockade of one of the main intersections. While it is vital to bring this issue up, as it was a concern that was raised, the dominance of this particular headline day after day, served to spread a certain type of information that would shape the interpretation of the protests in Sarajevo.
In one media reporting about citizens’ concerns over blocked traffic, examples were provided of peaceful protests throughout the world where traffic was not blocked, such as the Occupy Movement in NYC, making it seem as if the protests were confined to taking over one park. This was not true, as the Occupy protestors intentionally blocked traffic in the Wall Street area of NYC because it was one of the methods they wanted to employ to make their presence known.
Another question that arises is whether true objectiveness exists in journalism? What it comes down to is starting from the premise of asking the what, why, when, where and how? However, the way in which these questions are framed and the ensuing media headlines could serve to formulate and propagate false narratives if that is the intention.
Following the start of the protests in B&H, the B&H media has been involved in disseminating the same false information. Information is freely circulated without checking facts, using swaying headlines throughout the day so as to make a certain issue the ‘news of the day’, results in lazy journalism, which is not surprising, given that it is well known that the dominant political classes in B&H continue to retain a heavy influence on B&H media.