Media outlets as a public platform for protection of human rights

The online platform mapiraj.ba has been set up for systematic monitoring and public presentation of cases of human rights violations through media content, as one of the most significant results of the EU-funded project “Media for Human Rights”.

The project was funded in the amount of €250.000, with the aim to enhance cooperation between authorities, non-governmental organizations and the media in the field of protection and promotion of human rights in BiH, in line with EU standards.

Nine sectoral surveys on the human rights status of marginalized groups were also conducted as part of the project, based on which the White Paper on Human Rights in the media in BiH will be published.

“Journalists and the media, due to various political, economic and other influences, as well as lack of knowledge of the rights of others become civil rights violators by discriminating against others and different and by upholding stereotypes imposed, violating the code of journalistic ethics and professional standards by using hate speech,” was said at the project closing conference held in Sarajevo on 18 December 2019.

During the conference the results of the project that highlighted the need for networking between media, citizens, civil society organizations and government institutions to create and use online tools to promote, present and protect human rights of vulnerable groups through media content were presented.

“This project is unique in every way. When we started it three years ago, we wondered if it was possible that throughout all these years, no one managed to make a connection between the media and human rights in this way. That is why I think that this project has given us strong foundations for the activities performed together by the media outlets and non-government organizations to be used for the benefit of all BiH citizens,” said Vladimir Pandurevic, Project Manager within the EU Delegation in BiH.

During the project implementation, numerous events were organized involving more than 500 journalists, editors, representatives of government institutions, academia, international organizations and the civil sector, and conducted sectoral surveys on the status of human rights in the media, with the participation of over 1000 representatives of vulnerable social groups.

Researcher Srdjan Puhalo briefly presented the results of each research conducted within the project. He emphasized that journalists’ rights are often not respected, and the question was raised whether they could adequately address human rights topics.

“Every day over 30 percent of journalists suffer some form of pressure from politicians in power. If we know that this is happening, then we should not be surprised by today’s perception of journalism and journalists as socio-political workers,” Puhalo said.

Research shows that every other woman in BiH has suffered some form of violence since the age of 15, Puhalo added.

“The aim is to encourage women to report violence rather than being bullied, silent and suffering, as is now the case for the most part. Most of them say they did not report violence because they were ashamed, they were afraid for their lives and for the lives of their loved ones, they did not know who to turn to… It is a message to the system, but also to all of us,” Puhalo said.

Secretary General of the BH Journalists Association Borka Rudic said that the media outlets are human rights defenders by default, and now we are in a situation where they are among those who violate the rights of others.

“Mr. Priebe’s assessment of the work of the Ombudsman in BiH has gone unnoticed in our public, stating that the Ombudsman Institution has not fulfilled its legal obligations and has only stayed on giving opinions, which is insufficient. Very often, we have been aware that one should not just give an opinion, because institutions are not obliged to carry out that opinion. We cannot develop an institution in one field without that institution protecting human rights in another field,” said Rudic and added that mapiraj.ba platform was created precisely so that “we no longer hold that information about human rights violations in the public institutions somewhere in the boxes, but to make that information available to all citizens.”

The Media for Human Rights project was launched in early 2017. It is funded by the European Union in Bosnia and Herzegovina as part of the European Initiative for the Development of Democracy and Human Rights in BiH, and is implemented by a Consortium of BH Journalists, the Pro Educa Education Center and the European Federation of Journalists.