22 January 2007

Alert

Republika Srpska government boycotts public broadcaster from covering official events, alleging bias


(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is an 18 January IFJ media release:

IFJ Condemns Bosnian Serb Ban on National Public Broadcaster

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today condemned the Republika Srpska government after the Vice President, Anton Kasipovic, announced a boycott of Bosnia Herzegovina's state-wide public broadcaster, BHT 1, on 12 January.

Initially the boycott was restricted to requests for interviews, but appeared to have been extended to a total ban when a BHT 1 journalist crew was refused access to a government press conference in Banja Luka on Wednesday.

"This is a direct attack on the independence of the public service broadcaster and its ability to cover political affairs" said Oliver Money Kyrle, IFJ Director of Programmes. "The public broadcaster is there to serve and inform the Bosnian public, not the politicians. The government should immediately end its boycott and pressure for changes in the editorial staffing of BHT 1."

The Republika Srpska government justified its action as a response to alleged bias, citing BHT 1's failure to give adequate prominence in the news to the "Day of Republika Srpska" celebrated on 9th January. It also complained that its politicians had received unfair treatment on two political shows "Truly Speaking" and "Public Secret".

The Trade Union of Employees of RTV BiH, the union representing BHT 1 staff, has criticised the new Board of Governors who responded by replacing the Director General, Drago Maric. His replacement, Mehmed Agovic, has been further instructed to dismiss the BHT 1 Programme Director, Milan Trivic.

Only yesterday, following intense criticism, did the Board of Governors finally publicly criticise the boycott as an assault on free speech.

"The Board of Governors' primary role is to protect its staff from external political interference," added Money-Kyrle. "Yesterday's statement, though welcome, has come too late to avoid considerable damage being done to the Board's reputation. We hope that the Board will now work closely with its staff to restore public confidence in BHT 1."

The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries worldwide.



Source

International Federation of Journalists
International Press Centre, Residence Palace
Bloc C, second floor, Rue de la Loi, 155
1040 Brussels, Belgium

Fax:+ 32 2 2352219
Bosnia and Herzegovina
 
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