RS Parliament adopts controversial internet law

RS Parliament adopts controversial internet law

Banja Luka, February 4, 2015/ Independent Balkan News Agency

By Mladen Dragojlovic

Republic of Srpska became the only region in the Balkans with legalised censorship on the internet. RS National Assembly adopted the controversial law which provide punishments for those who call on the violation of public order and peace on social networks. The law was adopted with the votes of 46 MPs of the ruling coalition and the coalition “Homeland”.

Opposition parties in RSNA didn’t want to vote and their MPs left the Assembly hall before the vote. One of the opposition MPs, leader of Peoples democratic movement (NDP), Dragan Cavic, told the media that they refused to be present in the adoption of such a “shameful law”.

“Social networks are not public place and the amendments didn’t improve it (the law), because they didn’t change the essence. The law on public order and peace define internet as a public space and it means that, if somebody reports to the police a violation of public order and peace on the internet, the police has the right to arrest that person and, without a prosecutor’s warrant, detain him or her for 24 hours”, said Cavic.

He emphasised that the internet space can be regulated with a special law, but not with law on public order and peace. Cavic said that it is not true that Croatia has a similar law.

The EU Delegation in BiH /EUSR issued a statement in which it underlines that “the fundamental rights of all citizens must be upheld without reservation, as an essential prerequisite of a healthy democracy, according to the laws and regulations in force, and this includes of course freedom of expression. This is particularly the case in a country aspiring to meet the political criteria for EU membership. The EU stands fully behind freedom of expression, a fundamental freedom safeguarded by international law, including the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, which is an integral part of the functioning of a pluralistic democracy. Any regulation must be necessary, clearly defined and prescribed by the respective legislation.  We believe that the definitions in the RS law on public order remain vague and leave too much room for arbitrary implementation.  Having this in mind we call upon the responsible authorities to ensure clarity and proportionality in legislation and its implementation.

We will be closely monitoring developments with regard to the RS Law on Public Peace and Order. Freedom of expression and media freedom are regularly monitored within the Copenhagen political criteria and assessed in the annual Progress report published by the European Commission”.

RS NA President, Nedeljko Cubrilovic, said to the media after the Assembly session that problems with this law are caused by “misunderstanding and misreading” of the document.

“I have had a lot of meetings with representatives of professional associations. I can’t remember which associations, but they didn’t make any remarks on the law proposal. Human Rights Watch, foreign embassies and organisations condemned this law. I don’t think that they are ignorant just because their opinion is different than the opinion of the ruling coalition parties, but I think that they are not well informed about it”, Cubrilovic pointed out.

The Media community in BiH condemned the law as expression of censorship and attempt of torture due to difference in opinion. In next few days journalist association will decide how to response on the matter. Some of the journalists’ representatives mention the possibility of boycotting the media reporting about events in RS official institutions.

By procedure, the law must pass from the RS Assembly House of Peoples and then must be published. But, there is a chance that the representatives in the House of Peoples will ask for the opinion from the Constitutional court regarding the concord of this law with RS Constitution.