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    Pressure of Media Owners on Journalists: Reality or Alibi?

    The Press Council in BiH - Media and Public Credibility

    PRESSURE OF MEDIA OWNERS ON JOURNALISTS: REALITY OR ALIBI?

    The Law on Transparency of Media Ownership is a Necessity

    Author: Berislav Jurič

    “If the journalists are not free in their work from media owners, than we cannot say they are doing journalism. Because if you write how it suits your owner and not how it suits the public, than that is propaganda and not journalism,” says Aleksandar Trfiunovic, editor and owner of the Banja Luka portal Buka.

    Last year’s report, published by the BH Journalists Association on occasion of International Media Freedom Day, states that the number of those who think that the biggest influence on the media is exerted by politicians, while the citizens’ perception about media owners’ and editors’ influence is growing.

    The study indicated that 52.6 percent of citizens in the Federation regard the general political climate in the land as the essential obstacle in the media’s work, while 70.5 percent of the people surveyed in the Republic of Srpska feel that it is the political dependence. 16 percent believe that the media owners and editors are the main violators of journalism rights and media freedoms.

    Yet, Jurica Gudelj, journalist of the portal Dnevnik.ba thinks that every individual in modern society must fight for his or her own freedom, and so too do journalists. “Through some 15 odd years in journalism, I was never faced with a media owner dictating what and how I should write. I think that the situation in this regard is relatively good - media owners do not deal with individual articles, and every journalist has the freedom to write about the topics he or she wishes,” says Gudelj.

    Emir Zulejhic, editor of the portal Raskrinkavanje.ba, which analyses media content, warns that the bond of media ownership and political influence with editorial policy is unbreakable in BiH’s media reality. “The situation should be completely different, ethics standards of media coverage are something that should not be questionable in the media’s work, regardless of who the owners are and what the ideological or political position of a certain media is. Coverage should be accurate, all-encompassing, without hiding information, without manipulation, all positions and personal opinions must be clearly identified as such, and not served as news. The freedom of abiding by all media standards should be guaranteed to all journalists if we want this profession to maintain its dignity, and in order to solve this problem, all institutions, organizations and media should be involved, as well as, of course, the media content consumers, the citizens,” states Zulejhic.

    Trifunovic states that the media activity must “always and only include journalism ethics’ in the first place: “In America the owner has a ton of legislative and constitutional obstacles preventing him from influencing the work of his or her media editors. It is so logical,” says Trifunovic and states that the Law on Transparency of Media Ownership is a necessity. “Especially in BiH where the line between media owners, parties and marketing agencies is completely blurred,” says editor and owner of Buka.

    Gudelj however claims that a myth was created about how owners ‘force journalists to write and report in this or that way.’ “It is just an alibi that individuals, not fit for journalism, use to justify their incompetence. The media in BiH that will not publish a good story are rare, regardless of what or who is in question, but such a story cannot be created by anyone. The problem for media freedom is not media owners, nor politicians nor other interest groups. The main problem is within the journalist themselves who are often not fit for the tasks which they are trying to grasp. A good journalist will always find a way to tell a story for which he or she deems is of public importance. A week journalist will always find an alibi for why he or she did not do that,” states Gudelj.

    According to the Index of clientelism in the media, which is measured on the basis of empirical data of political influence on the media, as well as existing legislative frameworks, in 2017, BiH ranks at the end of the list of Southeastern European countries with an index of 0.67.

    This report emphasizes complete transparency of media ownership as the first priority that should be solved by all future media space arrangement policies. The need for changing the practice of awarding the public broadcasting services as bounty to election winners was also noted as a recommendation, along with the need to publicize information on media ownership as well as monetary donations, incentives and various financial injections to some media houses.

    It was concluded that ‘complete transparency of media ownership was the first priority that should be solved by all future media space arrangement policies’, as well as that all-encompassing directories of media ownership, financial and material support awarded to media, subventions and declared interests of those involved in deciding on media issues should be available in real time to all interested citizens.

    From the thematic session “Freedom of Expression and Media Freedom” held on the 9th of March in the Parliamentary Assembly of BiH, it was recommended to the Council of Ministers of BiH and the Ministry of Communication and Traffic that they should, as soon as possible, draft the Law on Electronic Communications and Electronic Media in accordance with the EU directives and best practices on the market of Bosnia and Herzegovina, with mandatory provisions on transparency of media ownership and direct it to the Parliamentary Assembly of BiH for adoption.

    Trifunovic says that it would be ideal for the media owners’ interests and the journalists’ interests to coincide, so that all work ‘to inform the public as best as possible, honorably, honestly and ethically.”

    “Then there is no burden. If the owners’ and journalists’ interests differ, than there is a burden that completely blocks the work of newsrooms and does not serve in the honor of journalism,” he concludes.

    The Project “Media and Public Credibility” is supported by the EU Delegation in BiH, however, the Delegation is not responsible for the content of this article.

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