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IRIS 2009-4:4/4


RAK Investigates Freedom from Accountability

Dusan Babic

Media researcher and analyst, Sarajevo

The Communications Regulatory Agency (RAK), which is responsible for the telecommunications and broadcasting sector in Bosnia and Herzegovina, has recently opened an investigation procedure against the Federal Television (FTV), a public broadcaster, for possible breach of the Broadcasting Code of Practice, point 1 Programme Standards and Requirements, and point 1.2 Decency and Civility.

FTV is the most watched TV station in Bosnia and Herzegovina, mostly thanks to its political magazine programme 60 minutes, which has already been attempting for some years to disclose mafia-like activities focussing in particular on rampant corruption and close ties between political and criminal circles. In the absence of the rule of law and a reliable judiciary, journalists were playing the roles of quasi-investigators, prosecutors and finally judges, at the same time. This is, of course, a perverted role that journalists were/are playing, which contradicts professional and ethical codes, including international documents on media freedom.

As well as adhering to the “reporting the facts” concept, journalists should at the same time sharpen their sense of their responsibility, which is missing in this FTV story. Criticism has been levelled at the frequent use of defamation and offensive language, and the ignoring of the legal tenet of the presumption of innocence. Instead of respecting the principle of “innocent until proven guilty”, they apply an upside down concept: “guilty until proven innocent”. In doing so, they demand the journalistic right “to offend, to shock and to embarrass” public figures, allegedly derived from the Declaration of Freedom of Political Debate in the Media, and supported by the EU, CoE, OSCE and journalists’ associations.

Until recently RAK remained silent, but after the Grand Mufti, head of the Islamic Community of Bosnia and Herzegovina, strongly voiced objections to 60 minutes and the manner of reporting in a very sensitive case of paedophilia discovered in a remote Muslim village in central Bosnia, RAK decided to open the case. Before the court of original jurisdiction had found an Imam guilty of molesting a (minor) girl in his dzemat (Muslim community), 60 minutes branded him as a paedophile. RAK considered this to be unprofessional and irresponsible.




Broadcasting Code of Practice