Media of Bosnia and Herzegovina

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The media of Bosnia and Herzegovina refers to mass media outlets based in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). Television, magazines, and newspapers are all operated by both state-owned and for-profit corporations which depend on advertising, subscription, and other sales-related revenues. The Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina guarantees freedom of speech.

As a country in transition with a post-war legacy and a complex domestic political structure Bosnia and Herzegovina's media system is under transformation. In the early post-war period (1995-2005), media development was guided mainly by international donors and cooperation agencies, who invested to help reconstruct, diversify, democratize and professionalize media outlets.[1][2]

Post-war developments included the establishment of an independent Communication Regulatory Agency, the adoption of a Press Code, the establishment of the Press Council, the decriminalization of label and defamation, the introduction of a rather advanced Freedom of Access to Information Law, and the creation of a Public Service Broadcasting System from the formerly state-owned broadcaster. Yet, internationally backed positive developments have been often obstructed by domestic elites, and the professionalisation of media and journalists has proceeded only slowly. High levels of partisanship and linkages between the media and the political systems hinder the adherence to professional code of conducts.[2]


During the Bosnian war, most media became propaganda tools of the authorities, armies, and factions. Since then, efforts have been made - with limited success - to develop media which bridge ethnic boundaries.[3]

Legislative framework[edit]

Freedom of expression and freedom of the media in Bosnia and Herzegovina are guaranteed by the Constitution, the European Convention on Human Rights and other international human rights conventions that are directly integrated in Bosnia and Herzegovina's constitutional order.[4]:27 Freedom of expression and media freedom is guaranteed by the Entity Constitutions too.[5]

Other relevant laws are the Law on Protection from Defamation,[6] which regulates libel and defamation, and the Law on Communications.[7] Due to the failure of authorities in both Republika Srpska and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina to ensure the creation of the necessary legal framework that would enable journalists to work professionally and independently in their environment, in 1999 the High Representative passed the Decision on Freedom of Information and the abolition of criminal penalties for insult and defamation. Defamation was decriminalised in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2002.[4]:27

Law on Communications is the general legal framework for the broadcasting and telecommunications industry, which establishes the Communications Regulatory Agency (CRA) as the independent state agency that regulates broadcasting and telecommunication sectors.[2]

The law provides for freedom of speech and press; however, the government does not always respect press freedom in practice. The Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina law prohibits hate speech. The Republika Srpska law does not specifically proscribe hate speech, although the law prohibits causing ethnic, racial, or religious hatred. Independent analysts note a continuing tendency of politicians and other leaders to label unwanted criticism as hate speech.[8] The law prohibits arbitrary interference with privacy, family, home, or correspondence, and the government generally respects these prohibitions in practice.[8]

The Communications Law also regulates media concentration and ownership issues. The CRA has adopted a Rule on Media Concentration and Cross-ownership,[9] as referred by the Communications Law, to prevent cross-ownership concentration. The Competition Law provides further rules on market concentration.[10]:281

The BiH law on Freedom of Access to Information is rather advanced and grants public access to all information held by public institutions, with exceptions only to protect information with a particularly negative effect on defence, public security, monetary policy, or privacy of third-parties.[2][11]

The Law on the Public Broadcasting Service System of Bosnia and Herzegovina[12] regulates the overall functioning of the system and the relations between its components, and is complemented by other state- and entity-level laws: the Law on Public Broadcasting Service of Bosnia and Herzegovina - BHRT,[13] the Law on the Radio Television of Federation of BiH – RTVFBiH [14] and the Law on the Radio Television of Republika Srpska – RTRS [2][15][16]:80

The Broadcasting Code of Conduct of the Communications Regulatory Agency provides standards for programming, requiring radio and TV stations to “demonstrate impartiality in their reporting, professionalism and equal representation of all social groups and different positions and opinions, with no discrimination on any grounds.“ The laws regulating public broadcasters foresee similar standards.[2]

The CRA has also adopted a Code on Audio-Visual and Radio Media Services, by which to measure the application of the licence terms, and an Advertising and Sponsorship Code, that regulate the protection of children and minors in the context of advertising and sponsorship. Despite of these codes, there are still concerns about the proper following of professional standards.[4]:28

The BiH Electoral Commission has adopted in 2005 the Rules on Media Presentation of Political Subjects in the Election Period, as required by BiH Electoral Law.[17] These rules set the standards for the coverage of electoral campaigns and require broadcasters to provide factual, complete, honest, fair and impartial information, and to treat political competitors equally and impartially.[2]

There is no registrar of on-line media in Bosnia Herzegovina and they do not require an operating licence. In the last years, the Press Council in BIH has committed itself to drafting a regulation in this area that would be based on the principle of self-regulation. In 2013, the Ministry of Communication started to draft a New Media Law, including the regulation of the internet and online media. This initiative raised some concerns, as it was expected to include limitations such as permits and licences[4]:28

Regulatory authorities[edit]

The Communications Regulatory Agency (CRA) is charged with regulating the country's radio and television media, as established by the Law on Communications.[8] The CRA is an independent agency, tasked with the regulation of radio and TV broadcasting and telecommunications networks; licensing; radio frequency spectrum allocation, and developing and enforcing rules and regulations within the communications market. The Law on Communications guarantees its independence and prevents Council of Ministers, individual ministers, or any other person to influence its decisions.[18] Moreover, state officials on all levels of government, members of political party bodies, and those linked to telecommunications operators or electronic media, are barred from being appointed as CRA Director General.[19] The CRA is financed according to the Law on Financing of Institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina [2][20]

Self-regulatory bodies[edit]

Editorial policy and contents of BiH media are not regulated. Self-regulation on ethical and professional principles is provided by the Press Code.[2]

The Press Council has been established as an independent, non-governmental, non-political self-regulatory body, comprising all journalists' associations and responsible for self-regulation of online and print media content. It aims to solve disputes among media and readers through professional tools such as the right to response, correction, apology and rebuttal. It cannot impose sanctions.[2] In 2012 the Press Council considered 176 complaints alleging inaccurate or libelous reporting by print and online media (103 for print and 73 for online media), accepting 35 as valid and rejecting 19 as unfounded.[8]

Media outlets[edit]

Print media[edit]

The BiH Press Council recorded in 2010 11 daily newspapers (all privately owned), 100 different types of magazines, 71 specialized magazines, and eight religious magazines.[2] Several Serbian and Croatian press media are also sold in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Data on newspapers' circulation are not published by media outlets, and are deemed a business secret. Market research agencies in 2006 reported as the mostly read dailies Dnevni Avaz (36%), Blic (10%), then Glas Srpske, Večernje novosti and Večernji list (4% each). One third of the population does not read newspapers.[21] Advertisement revenues shares in 2007 were divided as follows: Dnevni avaz (34%), Dnevni list (24%), Oslobodjenje (16,75%), Nezavisne novine (12,72%), Glas Srpske (8,92%), Vecernji list (3,48%)[22][23]:157

Reading patterns mainly follow territorial and ethno-national lines. Dnevni avaz, published in Sarajevo, targets mainly a Bosniak readership; Nezavisne novine, from Banja Luka, is read by Bosnian Serbs; Večernji list and Jutarnji list are aimed at the Bosnian Croats.[21]

Magazines have followed a trend of commercialization, with the lead being taken by women’s magazines such as Azra (14.7% of readership in 2005) and Gloria (12.5%), overcoming political magazines such as Dani (9.4%), Slobodna Bosna (7.2%) and Express (5.3%).[23]:158[24]


Radio broadcasting[edit]

  • Radio stations: 3 large public radio broadcasters and many private radio stations (2010).[25]

Bosnia and Herzegovina's Public Service Broadcasting System (BHRT) includes four radio channels: BH Radio 1 at state level, plus at entity level Radio FBiH and Radio 202 in the Federation of BiH (part of RTVFBiH) and Radio Republika Srpska in the Republika Srpska (part of RTRS).

The radio market sees 144 radio stations active, of which65 are public and 79 are private (2009 data). Their revenues come mostly from advertising (60%), coupled with public subisidies and program sales. The market is highly fragmented, with 60% of the revenues shared between 130 stations, and the remaining 40% among the 10 main stations. No single radio outlets makes more than 15% of the market revenues.[2][16] Two thirds of the revenues go to public broadcasters, either the national Public Service (30%) or other local state-owned outlets (34%); private broadcasters only tap the 36%.[26] Radios are often vertically integrated in media groups that also control TV stations, cable operators, internet providers, and even marketing agencies. Other radios are owned by municipal or cantonal governments, and publicly funded[16]:145

Most listeners (48% in 2006) syntonize themselves primarily on local radio stations, of whom Radio BN (15%) has the best rating, followed by BH Radio 1 (13%) and Radio Big 1 (10%). Some 22% respondents report never to listen to the radio.[2][27]

Television broadcasting[edit]

Radio and Television of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BHRT) building in Sarajevo.

TV is the chief news source. The most influential broadcasters are the public radio and TV stations operated by the Bosniak-Croat and Serb entities. The Office of the High Representative (OHR), the leading international civilian agency in Bosnia, oversaw the development of national public broadcasting. The OHR worked to create a non-nationalist, civic media.[3]

The Radio and Television of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BHRT), formerly known as RTVBiH (1992-1998) and then PBSBiH, is an umbrella broadcasting organization and the only member of the European Broadcasting Union from Bosnia and Herzegovina. In 1992 RTVBiH grew out of RTV Sarajevo, one of eight principal broadcasting centers of former Yugoslavia and on 1 January 1993, RTVBiH was admitted as an active member of the European Broadcasting Union. It includes the National public television channel BHT 1, the National public radio service BH Radio 1, and the Music Production unit MP BHRT. A common public corporation of BHRT with the entity-level public broadcasters RTVFBiH and RTRS is in the process of being established.

Sarajevo is home to Al-Jazeera Balkans TV, an offshoot of the Qatar-based pan-Arab news network, broadcasting in Bosnian, Croatian, and Serbian.[3]


SFF red carpet

The history of cinema in Bosnia and Herzegovina started with the first film screening on July 27, 1897. Yet, the development of the film industry only happened after the second world war. 120 feature films and hundreds of documentaries and short films were produced in the country until today, of which around 20 in the last decade (mostly co-productions).[2][28]

In 2008 Bosnia and Herzegovina hosted 50 cinema theatres with 7.409 film screenings, of which 503 of locally produced or co-produced films. The number of cinema-goers was on a negative trend, from 643.009 in 2003 to 236.517 in 2008[2][29]

The film industry suffered heavily of the war and post-war destruction of the country. The BiH Fund for Cinematography was established only in 2002 by the entity-level FBiH Ministry of Culture, and is today the only one to finance film productions in BiH and supporting the Association of Film Workers of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The annual Sarajevo Film Festival (SFF), established in 1995, is the flagship event in the region and an important way to promote BiH's film industry, also through co-productions promoted by the CineLink project.[2]


The Telecommunications sector in Bosnia and Herzegovina is undergoing liberalisation. Up to 2006, there were three licensed fixed telecommunication operators: BH Telecom, based in Sarajevo, covering 51% of the population of BiH and most of the territory of the Federation of BiH; Telekom Srpske, based in Banja Luka, covering 34% of the population of BiH, mainly in the territory of Republica Srpska; and HT Mostar, covering 16% of the population of BiH, mainly in the Federation of BiH. The three companies enjoyed a de facto monopoly over their operating areas, although they have nationwide licenses for domestic and international calls.[16]:180 New players have entered the marked since the start of its liberalisation in 2007.[2][30] The numbers of fixed telephony service subscribers were of 849.027 in 2001 and of 1.022.475 in 2007. Fixed telephony penetration rates increased from 22,35% (2001) to 26,41% (2007).[16]:189–190

The mobile telephony sector is highly competitive, as the three main telephone operators compete nationwide with the brands BH Mible, M-Tel and HT Eronet.[16]:182 Mobile networks cover 99% of the population and have a 63.29% penetration rate, with 2.450.425 subscribers in 2007, doubling from 2004.[16]:192

The TLC operators are still mainly state-owned and there is strong resistance to privatisation, with 90% of BH Telekom and 50.1% of HT Mostar owned by the Federation of BiH. In Republika Srpska, Telekom Srpska was privatised and is now mainly (65%) owned by Telekom Srbija[16]:186

The telecommunications market is regulated by the Communications Regulatory Agency, which also regulates broadcasting and Internet sectors.[2]


Internet users in Bosnia and Herzegovina have rapidly increased, from 585.000 in 2004 up to 1.055.000 in 2007. Internet penetration rose from 2% in 2002 to 35% in 2009.[16]:193–194 The youth (15-24) is the most web-connected population share.

Media outlets opened websites in the 2000s, but their online operations remained a reflex of print versions. The first ones to invest in online news were Dnevni Avaz, followed by Radio Sarajevo and Oslobodjenje. Yet, the country most visited portal was, an independent website which later developed in the portal.[2]

There are no government restrictions on access to the Internet or reports that the government monitors e-mail or Internet chat rooms.[8]

Media Organisations[edit]

Media agencies[edit]

There were 6 active news agencies in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2010, of which two are state-owned: FBiH's Federal News Agency (FENA) and RS' News Agency of Republika Srpska (SRNA). The main private agency is ONASA.[2]

Trade unions[edit]

Bosnia and Herzegovina hosts six journalist associations, often along ethno-national lines. One of the few active ones is BH novinari (BiH Journalists). Broadcasters are represented by the Association of Independent Electronic Media and the Association of Private Radio and Television Stations in B&H, gathered in the Association of Media Industry (UMI) to include also advertising agencies and tasked with producing data on TV ratings. The Association of Graphic, Publishing, and Media Employees in BiH represent the print media and printing houses.[2]

Production companies[edit]

Independent production companies proliferated after 1995. At least 30 of them are active today, producing TV programs, documentaries, short films and feature films. The main ones include Refresh,, Flash Production, F.I.S.T. Production, and Deblokada.[2]

Censorship and freedom of expression[edit]

Bosnia and Herzegovina has no official system of recording crimes against journalists, which end up mostly being classified as minor offenses. The professional status of the victim is not taken into account by the authorities. According to RS general prosecutor Mahmut Švraka, journalists "overreact to threats and make unsubstantiated claims", only to then lose interest in the cases since the procedure is very lengthy.[31]:20

Attacks and threats against journalists[edit]

The Association of BiH Journalists recorded 20 cases of attacks or threats to journalists in the first 7 months of 2014, including five physical attacks and one death threat. Twenty cases were also recorded in 2013, and 22 in 2012.[31]:14 Human Rights Watch recorded a "decidedly mixed record" concerning the state response to the attacks, and "a climate of fear among journalists" since, as reporter Amer Bahtijar summarized, "it would only mean that the police have to investigate themselves".[31]:14

  • A private security guard of the East Sarajevo hospital threatened to shoot Slobodan Vasković, reporter on corruption and war crimes, the same day he was in court to defend himself in a defamation case launched against him by Republika Srpska's president Milorad Dodik, in September 2013. The police failed to investigate the case.[31]:15
  • Štefica Galić, a Mostar-based journalist, was physically attacked in July 2012 by a woman in her hometown of Ljubuski after the screening of a documentary about her late husband Nedeljko Galić, with whom she saved Bosniaks from deportations to concentration camps during the conflict. She had previously reported online threats to the police, who did not take her seriously. After the attack, she had to move out of Ljubuski with her family. The police qualified the event only as "disturbing public order". After international pressures, the attacker was tried and received in first instance a rather lenient three-month suspended sentence for assault.[31]:15–16
  • In October 2012 the members of BHRT TV crew, including reporter Svjetlana Vučetić, were verbally and physically attacked by two security guards ouside the Milići mine, a suspect Bosniak mass grave, that was to be privatized. The Milići police waited for calls from their command in Bijeljina before allowing them to file a report on the event. The two men were indicted by the Vlasenica prosecutor, but the case did not go through.[31]:16–17
  • Cases of excessive use of force by police against journalists were reported during the 2014 protests in Tuzla, where two journalists, including freelance Edin Selvić, were beaten, handcuffed and cursed by police officers, after having their cameras broken and receiving death threats. Federation police reportedly started an investigation on the case, but with no development to date.[31]:21

Political interferences[edit]

Twenty-eight Bosnian journalists interviewed by HRW described political interference as commonplace in the work work.[31]:35 In August 2013 the Banja Luka-based Istinito news website reported of students posters against RS' president Milorad Dodik. The police threatened the website owner Željko Rajlić with arrest and requested him to surrender the IP addresses of the sources of the story.[31]:36 BH Dani journalist Paulina Janusz denounced several attempts by Sadik Ahmetovic, vicepresident of the SDA party in Srebrenica, to prevent the publication of her articles before the 2014 administrative elections, up to threatening her with deportation to her home country Poland. Dani withstood the pressures up until a change in editors in August 2014, after which Janusz left the newspaper.[31]:35

Surprise financial and administrative inspections are used as a method to punish media outlets after critical reporting. This was the case of the joint raid on 29 December 2014 by RS and FBiH police at the Sarajevo premises of website, after it had run a story about alleged corruption in the RS National Assembly. The police seized the website equipment and detained for questioning four journalists, which they released after eight hours. They requested them to surrender the source of a wiretap in which the RS prime minister Željka Cvijanović is caught saying to have bought two MPs to ensure a majority for his party in the Assembly.[31]:36 The raid had been preceded by a police hearing in Banja Luka, in which journalists had already been required to surrender their sources. According to the journalists, the raid was meant as an intimidation message to all journalists in the country.[31]:37

The editorial independence of BiH's public broadcasters has been questioned repeatedly by authoritative observers such as the European Parliament and Freedom House, due to their close affiliations with political parties. Pro-governmental media outlets are reported as receiving a disproportionate share of advertising space, whose allocation is not trasparent, and even direct subsidies through ad hoc projects.[31]:37

Civil defamation lawsuits[edit]

BiH laws stipulate liability for defamation in case of wilful or negligent dissemination of false information causing harm to natural or legal persons. The BH Journalists Association reported an average of 100 civil defamation lawsuits every year. Journalists and editors defined civil lawsuits as a strategy of politicians and businessmen to keep them busy and impede them to spend time doing their own job of investigative journalism, since they often do not have money to hire lawyers and need to defend themselves personally - or to push them to self-censorship.[31]:46

  • Slobodan Vasković, independent investigative journalist in Republika Srpska, counted up to 40 defamation lawsuits against him, a dozen of which from RS president Milorad Dodik. He won all lawsuits filed in Sarajevo and lost all those filed in Banja Luka.[31]:46
  • Ljiljana Kovačević, journalist from the Beta News Agency, was sued by RS President Milorad Dodik in 2011 after a press conference in which he claimed she published fake news and told her to leave the building. She was convicted for defamation in October 2013 by a lower court in Banja Luka, for having violated the presumption of innocence, although the court acknowledge the information published (concerning a SIPA report against Dodik on suspected criminal activities linked with construction tenders) was true and correct. The conviction and fine of 5000 BAM was reverted in appeal in August 2014.[31]:47
  • The weekly Slobodna Bosna was fined repeatedly by public officials. Its editor counts up to 50 civil lawsuits against the media, which was condemned to pay around €15.000 in fines between March 2014 and January 2015.[31]:47


Cyber-attacks against investigative journalism websites have increased in Bosnia and Herzegovina since the May 2014 floods, when journalists started questioning the official responses to the crisis. The Istinito website from Banja Luka suffered several DDoS attacks in October 2014, bringing it down for a full day each time and requiring several days to restore full capacities. The website owner said attacks came any time he published critical news against the RS President Milorad Dodik. RS Prosecutor General Mahmut Švraka told HRW they had received no reports of cyber-attacks against news sites in 2014[31]:51–52

Smear campaigns[edit]

Several BiH journalists experienced smear campaigns with consequences on their work and professional career.

  • Slobodan Vasković, independent investigative journalist in Republika Srpska, suffered a 58-days smear campaign in 2011 by pro-governmental media outlets, including public service broadcaster RTRS and the entity-owned news agency SRNA, as well as by the Nezavisne Novine daily, up to being accused of being responsible for the killing of Zoran Đinđić. Vasković deemed the campaign as an invitation "for someone to kill me" and reported being unable to find work in RS-based media outlets since.[31]:56–57
  • Ljiljana Kovačević from BETA was banned in 2011 from the presidential building in Banja Luka, where press conferences are held, and has therefore not been able to exercise her job since. President Dodik attacked the Beta News Agency publicly once more in 2013, to discredit the agency and the journalist.[31]:57
  • Paulina Janusz suffered a smear campaign by Face TV in May 2014, after she criticized the media coverage of the Spring 2014 floods. She defined the campaign as full of "lies, sexism and nationalism", and reported receiving attacks from Sarajevo-based Islamists and continuous online death threats. She had to leave Sarajevo and has left journalism since.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hozić, 2008; Thompson & De Luce, 2002; Kurspahić, 2003; Jusić, 2006
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v Tarik Jusić, "Bosnia and Herzegovina", EJC Media Landscapes
  3. ^ a b c "Bosnia-Hercegovina profile - Media", BBC News, 18 December 2012. Retrieved 30 January 2014.
  4. ^ a b c d Elda Brogi, Alina Dobreva, and Pier Luigi Parcu, "Freedom of Media in the Western Balkans", study for the European Parliament's Subcommittee on Human Rights, October 2014, EXPO/B/DROI/2013/16
  5. ^ Art.1(l) of the Federation of BiH Constitution, and Art 25 and 26 of the RS Constitution.
  6. ^ Official Gazette RS No. 37/01, Official Gazette FBiH No. 31/01
  7. ^ Official Gazette BiH No. 33/02, 12 November 2002
  8. ^ a b c d e "Bosnia and Herzegovina", Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2012, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State, 22 March 2013. Retrieved 30 January 2014.
  9. ^ CRA Rule No. 21/2003
  10. ^ Jusić, Tarik, 2006, The Media in a Democratic Society, in Srdjan Dizdarevic et al., (ed.); Democracy Assessment in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Open Society Fund Bosnia and Herzegovina.
  11. ^ Articles 6, 7 and 8, Law on Freedom of Access to Information in BiH
  12. ^ Official Gazette of Bosnia and Herzegovina, no. 78/05
  13. ^ Official Gazette of Bosnia and Herzegovina, no. 92/05
  14. ^ Official Gazette of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, no. 01-02-401/08
  15. ^ Official Gazette of Republika Srpska, no. 49/06
  16. ^ a b c d e f g h i AGCOM & CRA, 2008, Overview of the Communications Sector in Bosnia and Herzegovina
  17. ^ Official Gazette BiH No. 23/2001
  18. ^ BiH Law on Communications, Article 36
  19. ^ BiH Law on Communications, Article 40
  20. ^ Official Gazette BiH, 29 December 2004
  21. ^ a b GfK BiH, 2006, Čitanost dnevnih novina u BiH,
  22. ^ Mareco Index Bosnia, 2006
  23. ^ a b Hozić, Aida A., 2008, Democratizing Media, Welcoming Big Brother: Media in Bosnia and Herzegovina, in Karol Jakubowicz and Miklos Sukosd (ed.): Finding the Right Place on the Map: Central and Eastern European Media Change in a Global Perspective, Intellect Bristol, UK / Chicago, USA.
  24. ^ IREX, Media Sustainability Index 2005
  25. ^ a b "Communications: Bosnia and Herzegovina", World Factbook, U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, 28 January 2014. Retrieved 30 January 2014.
  26. ^ CRA Survey, 2007, quoted in AGCOM & CRA, 2008: 141
  27. ^ GfK BiH, 2006b, Elektronski mediji u BiH – koji se najčešće gledaju i slušaju?
  28. ^ Udruzenje filmskih radnika Bosne i Hercegovine
  29. ^ Agency of Statistics of Bosnia and Herzegovina, 2009: 18
  30. ^ Communications Regulatory Agency, 2009a, Public Register of Public Broadcasters
  31. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t Human Rights Watch, "A Difficult Profession. Media Freedom Under Attack in the Western Balkans". July 2015, 978-1-6231-32576

External links[edit]