The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Harlem Désir, called on the authorities in Croatia and in Bosnia and Herzegovina to investigate numerous death threats against journalists and ensure their safety, following the recent conclusion of a war crimes court case at the UN International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).
“I strongly condemn all threats against journalists, especially those aimed at silencing them. Authorities have an obligation to ensure that journalists have safe working conditions, and that persons threatening them are prosecuted”, Désir said.
According to journalists’ organizations, OSCE states in the press release, in the two countries and numerous reports, many reporters and media outlets received messages containing various threats of abuse and violence, including death threats.
Among those who received threats were journalists from Croatia’s Index.hr portal, who received a number of very serious insults and death threats on social media. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, journalists Sanel Kajan and Štefica Galić from Al Jazeera and the tacno.net portal respectively, were targeted with numerous threats on social networks, including threats of death and rape.
According to the information available, these and many other cases have been reported to police in the respective countries.
“I call on the authorities to condemn attacks at the highest level and conduct a swift investigation of all threats”, Désir said.
He added that journalists have a right to report even on difficult issues. The Representative also supports prompt public reactions by the Journalists’ Association of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Croatian Journalists’ Association.
The OSCE reaction came less than a week after the final verdict to six BiH Croat officials and the death of one of them, Slobodan Praljak, who took poison in the courtroom. This event triggered the renewal of the hate between Bosniaks and Croats in BiH. This hate became visible on the social networks but nationally divided media space, printed and digital, became the ground for the threats. Some of media begun to publish the documents about atrocities of the “other side” during the war and journalists received death threats in several cases. For instance, the Croat based internet portal Poskok.info, after publishing several stories about Bosniak war crimes on Croats in Herzegovina, received so many threats in commentaries that,as a sign of protest, turned the portal off for 24 hours.
On the other side, Bosniak based media are receiving the threats since the verdict marked the convicts as war criminals and Croatia as aggressor in BiH. This “gave wings” to the media close to Party of Democratic Action, which is a part of the ruling coalition in Federation BiH, to publish the documents about Croat war crimes against Bosniaks in Central Bosnia.
In this situation, every call to calm the situation, including OSCE, is welcome and must be repeated until the relief of tensions./IBNA