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    Expert Group “Transparency of Media Financing from Public Budgets”, 13.06.2018, Banja Luka

    THE PRESS COUNCIL IN BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA

    Media and Public Credibility

     

    The Press Council in Bosnia and Herzegovina realized the expert discussion on “Transparency of Media Financing from Public Budgets”, as part of the project “Media and Public Credibility”, on June 13, 2018 in Banja Luka.

    The excellent and creative discussion was attended by more than 30 editors and journalists, media organization representatives, the Minister of Justice of the Republic of Srpska, Mr. Anton Kasipović, the Spokesperson of the Ministry of Justice of RS, representatives from the Ministry of Traffic and Communication of RS and professors from the Faculty of Political Sciences in Banja Luka, in order to attempt together to identify the problems existing in the field of media financing from public budgets and transparency of media ownership in BiH, and provide expert proposals for potential solutions of these problems.

    The introductory speakers during the expert group were: Ms. Ljiljana Zurovac, Program Director of the Press Council in BiH, Mr. Siniša Vukelić, Editor in Chief of the portal capital.ba and President of the Journalists Club of Banja Luka, Ms. Milkica Milojević, Member of the Board of Directors of the BH Journalists Association and Journalist of the daily “Euro Blic” and Mr. Borislav Vukojević, Senior Assistant at the Faculty of Political Science in Banja Luka.

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    Ms. Ljiljana Zurovac in her introductory remark greeted all attendants and emphasized the importance of passing the Law on Transparency of Media Ownership and Financing from Public Budgets, as well as the Law on Advertising. “The Press Council in BiH, together with the BH Journalists Association, Mediacentar Sarajevo and the JaBiHEU organization make a Consortium that is implementing the project “Media and Public Credibility”, financed by the EU Delegation in BiH, for the second year now, preparing the drafts of this Law. These laws are lacking in our media legislation. The lack of these laws creates opportunities for various manipulations, especially in the field of online media. We have to differentiate between credible and trustworthy media and the ones who are not.”

    Mr. Siniša Vukelić, Editor in Chief of the portal capital.ba and President of the Journalist Club of Banja Luka, noted that media transparency is something that has been advocated for years. “Before I thought that it was not so necessary, but lately I realized that it is very important for the media. It is important because a lot of stuff is being written and the media transfers various information. That is why it is important to know who stand behind every media. A few non-government organizations performed research that showed that companies who have monopolies spent huge amounts of money on advertising in certain media, even though I see no purpose for such advertising. That is why it is important to have a Law on Media Ownership and Transparency of Financing, even though at times the editorial policy of a media is not necessarily linked to ownership. It is important to know who and out of what motives finances the media,” said Vukelić.

    Ms. Milkica Milojević, Journalist and Member of the Board of Directors of BH Journalists noted that, in addition to transparency of media financing from public budgets, the responsibility that the journalists need to have towards the public they inform is also important. “Money from public budgets should be given to the media, but under the condition that it is spent purposefully. There should be a public register of media where there will be information on how much money which media got from public budgets and what we as the public received for this money, what kind of content did this media place after receiving this financial support.”

     “For us as the public, it is important to know who the media owners are, that is why media ownership transparency is slightly more important than media financing. We have to know who the owners of the media are, who are spending the money, and we do not have such register. There are partial registers of non-government organizations who obtain data for themselves, but such registers are not updated. However, we need an official media register with full information on who the owners are, who the editors are, how are they financed, and if those owners own other media? The Law does not mean automatic solution to the problem, as is evident in the case of Croatia, which adopted a full legislation and has a media register, but there is not much improvement. The problem is that this Register does not determine deeper data. I would propose amendment of the Law on Information, to adopt a media register, and establish an Agency responsible for the media register, but which has to be impartial to political party influence. Pressure from the public and advocacy is key, in order for changes to take place and for laws on media to be passed,” said Mr. Borislav Vukojević, Senior Assistant at the Faculty of Political Science in Banja Luka.

    The Focus Group is realized within the project “Media and Public Credibility”, implemented by the Consortium of four organizations in BiH, with support of the EU Delegation in BiH: The Press Council in BiH, Media Center, JaBiHuEU and the BH Journalists Association. The Project “Media and Credibility” aims at preparing the legislative framework for the regulation of transparency of media ownership, media financing and advertising in BiH. These areas are of special importance for the freedom of research, journalists’ protection and preventing pressure against media and the journalists.

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