Elections Fuelling Hate Speech in Bosnia and Herzegovina

General elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina scheduled for 12 October have once again triggered hate speech across local media channels. Civil Rights Defenders’ partners BH Journalist Association and the Press Council in Bosnia and Herzegovina have initiated two parallel activities for monitoring hate speech in the local media in the run up to the elections.

The Press Council in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which acts as a self-regulatory body for print and online media, launched a campaign “STOP! Hate Speech!”. The aim of the campaign is to provide adequate responses to hate speech, discriminatory and inciting rhetoric in comments made by visitors to various web portals. The most important aspect of this campaign is to educate people to the fact that hate speech and inciting rhetoric can often go beyond the principal tenets of freedom of speech with far reaching consequences.

“The importance of these actions lies in the fact that citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina are still living in fear from war, created by the media. Such media pressure has become a part of our every-day lives, and media reports, which seem to be harmless, are having a huge effect on individual lives” says Ena Bavcic, Programme Officer of Civil Rights Defenders.

Parallel to this campaign, the Bosnia Herzegovina Journalists Association has begun monitoring the  media in  the pre-election period, with the support of the Council of Europe and the Norwegian Government. This monitoring will be conducted in line with the Council of Europe’s standards for pre-election reporting, with a focus on two principle areas: the presence of hate speech in pre-election media contents, and the frequency and manner of female politicians’ representation in the media. The whole process will be led by two local academics who will asses the number of media appearances by representatives of the various political parties running in the elctions . The goal is to evaluate whether some politcal parties have more time to promote their election campaings than others.

“Too much media attention is being paid to the politicians who run their election campaigns on the lines of ethnicity. On the other hand, even when the media are not directly involved in hate speech, editors of magazines and web portals do not take responsibility for hate-speech comments that are being published in their web pages. People must make them accountable“ says Ena Bavcic, Programme Officer of Civil Rights Defenders.

Civil Rights Defenders throughout our long  term partnership with the BH Journalists Association and the Press Council of Bosnia and Herzegovina  have provided and supported capacity building projects. The Coalition against Hate Crime and Hate Speech initiated by Civil Rights Defenders has helped in mainstreaming advocacy against hate speech by providing our partners with insights on appropriate  tools which can be used to combat such acts.