Will journalists be punished for Dodik’s insults?!

23.05.2023. / 17:27

BANJALUKA – A jerk, a slob, a slob, a prankster, a gypsy. These are just some of the epithets with which the president of the RS and SNSD, Milorad Dodik, “honored” journalists, ambassadors, and even world-class athletes like Novak Đoković.

PHOTO: Fokus.ba

As is well known, the same Dodik is, at the same time, the initiator, the political orderer and, at the very least, the most ardent advocate of the adoption, for journalists, of disastrous amendments to the Criminal Code of the RS, which criminalize defamation, prescribe criminal offenses against honor and reputation, and insults .

According to Article 208a. of this legal solution, which is in the discussion stage, Dodik himself, in fact, committed numerous criminal acts because “whoever insults another will be fined from 5,000 KM to 20,000 KM”.

If the offense was committed through the press, radio, television or other means of public information or at a public meeting or in another way, due to which the offense became accessible to a large number of people, it will be punished by a fine of 10,000 KM to 50,000 KM. .

If such a law is adopted and when its implementation begins, it is clear that journalists are the target, not Dodik. Namely, the aforementioned amendments to the Criminal Code of the RS will make it even more difficult for journalists to perform their regular tasks, i.e. put a target on their forehead. What is it about?

The task of journalists is, among other things, to report on sessions of government bodies, executive power, court hearings, public gatherings and other public events. If it happens that someone presents offensive or slanderous content at these events, journalists and the media are obliged to credibly convey that content to the public. Considering that Dodik does this most often, the journalists themselves (neither guilty nor liable) could be held responsible for the slander and insults he “honours” individuals?!

In Article 208d. The amendment of the Criminal Code is visible only as an apparent attempt to exclude journalists from this story, but then the legislator continued the sentence with “but”.

“There is no criminal offense under Art. 208a. to 208v. of this Code, if it is an offensive expression or presentation of something untrue in a scientific, professional, literary or artistic work, in the performance of a duty prescribed by law, a journalistic invitation, political or other public or social activity or the defense of a right, if from the manner of expression or from other circumstances, it follows that it was not done with the intention of disparagement, or if the person proves the truth of his statement, or that he had a reasonable reason to believe in the truth of what he stated or transmitted”.

But how do you prove that someone who threw a volley of insults at someone did not do so with the intention of disparaging someone? It’s probably a mission impossible for both the person concerned and the journalists who report it.

Džana Brkanić, deputy editor of the Balkan Research Network (BIRN) in Bosnia and Herzegovina, says that journalists should not be punished for reporting on sessions, even in the case when someone unreasonably accuses or insults someone, which is not uncommon if, for example, the National Assembly of the Republic is monitored Serbian.

“In addition, for example, some behaviors of political actors should not be hidden from the public eye, they should also see and hear who sits in state and entity institutions and receives a salary. Finally, what will we do with live broadcasts? I believe that many articles of the Draft Amendments to the Criminal Code of the RS, which relate to insult and defamation, are too broad, which we know leaves the possibility of arbitrary interpretation, and in addition, they do not exclude everyday journalistic work, which is nothing more than limiting media freedoms. “Journalists are the ones who have uncovered numerous corrupt and criminal affairs in Bosnia and Herzegovina, one of the most corrupt countries, so it is clear who this draft code is in favor of – the powerful who are not, and would have something to answer for or be prosecuted”. Brkanić points out.

“Waterfall” lawsuits

Commenting on Dodik’s behavior in public appearances, she pointed out that in the first place, he was never punished for denying crimes, nor for reducing the rights of the LGBTIQ community, which she says “should be eliminated”, and finally not for insulting journalists, whom she calls “thieves and rascals”.

“And then journalists should not show his voters and other citizens how he offends, because they could be punished? That is the biggest absurdity of this draft. Such articles of law are contrary to good international practices, such as Ireland, the United Kingdom, Estonia, Cyprus. In 2002, Bosnia and Herzegovina was the first in the region to decriminalize defamation, transferring it to civil, civil proceedings. Instead of moving forward, we are taking a step back, again following the worst, for example, neighboring Serbia, from which every day we can hear the cry of colleagues who receive an incredible number of “SLAP” lawsuits – whose goal is to shut down the media, bury and financially disable journalists”. Brkanić concluded.

The journalist of the InfoVeza portal, Stefan Blagić, says that given the fact that in the amendments to this law there is no exclusion of illegality in the content that is transmitted, journalists find themselves in a completely absurd situation where they are practically prohibited from doing their job.

“And that will create a complete disaster in this profession. I ask your readers to logically think about how journalists can be responsible if, for example, are they broadcasting an event live through social networks in which one of the politicians is offended by something that was said at the event? Will the television stations that broadcast the sessions of the National Assembly of the Republic of Srpska be held accountable for possible insults expressed during the sessions or media conferences that are broadcast live? It is particularly interesting that the proposed draft law does not recognize the public interest, so if you combine that fact with all of the above, you will get disastrous results, and journalists will be able to do their job exactly as much as a football referee does basketball refereeing”, stated Blagić.

He emphasizes that regime journalists will enjoy complete protection, and for this statement, he adds, he has evidence that he will publish soon.

“I believe that the only “freedom” will exist in cases where Dodik insults others, so it is possible that there will be the only space in which journalists could “swim”, because there is a real possibility that in that case they will be, at least partially, protected . I believe that Dodik himself will take care of it, because if anyone has an influence on the judiciary of Republika Srpska, it is him,” Blagić pointed out.

Media control

Editor-in-chief of the Spin portal Sanja Vasković, while noting that certain provisions of the draft law are unclear, points out that it will make it impossible for journalists to truthfully report on assemblies, which, she says, is particularly worrisome considering that they are representatives of citizens and that voters have the right to know how they are represented by those they voted for and how they dispose of public money.

“Given that I follow the parliamentary sessions in the City of East Sarajevo, made up of six municipalities with the administrative center of the City, where they are not broadcast live and where media control by the authorities is almost complete, it is especially dangerous to take a step back. Considering that it recently happened that the authorities did not even invite the media to the Assembly, showing in a certain way arbitrariness and arrogance, in a society where political dissenters are already harshly punished and labeled, it is a question of the survival of independent media and the democracy of societies”, said Vasković.

It is absurd, he emphasizes, that journalists have to answer for the content they transmit, in the interest of the public.

“Everything will come down to the “free interpretations” of the judicial authorities. It is particularly controversial how the court will determine their intention to offend someone, and the term “insult” is not clearly defined. Bearing in mind the parliamentary rhetoric, it is unquestionable who will “dare” to report on the citizens’ representatives”, stressed Vasković.

He states that lawyers have also warned that the exclusion of criminal responsibility, if it is a matter of truthful presentation or transmission, is inapplicable when it comes to the criminal offense of insult. Fokus.ba

Source: Capital.ba – Informacija je capital by www.capital.ba.

*The article has been translated based on the content of Capital.ba – Informacija je capital by www.capital.ba. If there is any problem regarding the content, copyright, please leave a report below the article. We will try to process as quickly as possible to protect the rights of the author. Thank you very much!

*We just want readers to access information more quickly and easily with other multilingual content, instead of information only available in a certain language.

*We always respect the copyright of the content of the author and always include the original link of the source article.If the author disagrees, just leave the report below the article, the article will be edited or deleted at the request of the author. Thanks very much! Best regards!