Between Influence and Pressure

According to a country report published today, organized crime and corruption reporting in Bosnia is heavily influenced by key political parties in order to exert pressure in their endless power struggles.

In “Under the Influence: BiH Media Reporting on Organised Crime and Corruption” report, published by BIRN, the authors claim that Bosnian politicians seek to use the media as a tool to mobilize and retain popular support, exert political pressure over coalition partners, or attack and discredit their opponents and critics.

This mutual relationship between politicians and media organisations has contributed to ethnic and political divisions in the country, and has had an impact on Bosnia’s reforms and especially the battle against corruption and organised crime, which is perceived as one of the single biggest maladies in the society.

Various methods used to influence media

The research and analysis in Bosnia showed not only that almost all media face strong political pressure and influence, but that some media organisations – together with parts of the judicial apparatus – act almost as extended arms of different political or other interest blocs. BIRN’s research also showed that many journalists feel burdened by professional difficulties and pressures, threats and lack of access to information. On the other hand, interlocutors from police authorities, prosecutors’ offices and courts, as well as representatives of the civil society, were quite critical of media outlets and their impact on the struggle against corruption and organised crime in the country.

One thing about which there is a clear consensus among all of the groups – journalists, civic activists, and security and rule-of-law officials – is that the vast majority of media in Bosnia are either a part of political circles, or are directly or indirectly influenced by them.

The majority of the journalists interviewed said they are mostly free to propose topics and cover stories as they see fit, but many of them admit at the same time that editorial policies at their media outlets are swayed either by self-censorship, or by direct or indirect political influence, if not by pressure and threats.

According to the journalists who were interviewed, there are various methods which politicians, political parties, governments and/or institutions use to influence media, and these methods vary from one media outlet to another and from one official to another, as well as from one topic to another.

What contributes to the public perception of weak and imbalanced media coverage of investigated and prosecuted cases of crime and corruption is the fact that media reports are mostly limited to short news pieces, and are rarely followed by more in-depth news articles such as analyses, interviews or comment pieces.

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