|Three years after the Dayton peace accords ended the war in Bosnia and
Herzegovina, physical dangers to journalists have abated, but nationalist
political parties continue to control or influence most media, and to harass
During and immediately after parliamentary and presidential elections in
September, police detained journalists in three separate incidents, but quickly
released them when international agencies intervened.
Local officials are turning increasingly to criminal defamation law, which
permits imprisonment for up to three years, as an instrument of intimidation.
In a developing pattern, courts are handing down conditional jail sentences,
suspended unless the journalist is found in violation of any law during the
subsequent year. Both the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe
(OSCE) and the international community's new Independent Media Commission
(IMC) in Bosnia -- established in June to create an equitable broadcasting
regulatory system and to promote media professionalism -- have condemned
the sentences and called for decriminalization of libel law in Bosnia.
With the economy still in deep recession, aid from Western governments and
private donors remains crucial to the survival of Bosnia's independent media,
as does the presence of the high representative, Carlos Westendorp, a special
envoy with broad powers established by the Dayton Accords.
Under a supervisor appointed by Westendorp, public television and radio in
the Muslim-Croat Federation (RTVBiH) acquired new management and a nonpartisan
governing council. By year's end, programming showed significant improvement
in balance and production quality. A second supervisor installed by Westendorp
at the Serb entity's public television network SRT, made some progress in
improving the balance of news coverage, but the SRT remains under the control
of the nationalist but relatively moderate Republika Srpska (RS) government.
As the struggle between competing Serb political parties continued, the RS
government attempted in July, seven weeks before national elections, to install
its own management at 16 local radio and television stations controlled by
hard-line nationalist Serb factions, but failed at all but six of the
Since its inception, the IMC has promulgated a broadcasting code of ethics
based in part on the Fairness Doctrine originated by the U.S. Federal
Communications Commission. By year's end, it had begun licensing the
approximately 290 radio and television stations in Bosnia.