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Comment: Censorship Shall (not) Pass

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All modern constitutions guarantee the fundamental human rights and freedoms, freedom of speech, freedom of expression. They all prohibit censorship. So does the Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina, too. However, these days even more than usual, these freedoms are attacked through different channels.

Over the past twenty years, we have rarely seen some interest into journalistic reports about crime and corruption.

Now, in an urgent and speedy fashion, rarely seen before, prosecution and judicial authorities seek temporary seizure of all audio, video and textual materials of some media companies - under threat of 50.000KM fine or jail - in case of refusal.

We wonder is this going to be the practice for the future?

This could be a justified request, possibly, if this was a case of terrorism - but the citizens were not declared terrorists, yet. There is no state of emergency nor was a coup d'etat declared. There are no grounds for that request, as prescribed by law, are there?

The Recommendation of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on the protection of freedom of expression and information in crisis situations says: 'With a view, inter alia, to ensuring their safety, media professionals should not be required by law-enforcement agencies to hand over information or material (for example, notes, photographs, audio and video recordings) gathered in the context of covering crisis situations nor should such material be liable to seizure for use in legal proceedings. Any exceptions to this principle should be strictly in conformity with Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights and the relevant case law of European Court of Human Rights.'

Journalist Rubina Čengić also commented on this briefly, but very clear: 'I can understand the need of the police pursuit for any evidence or trace about those they're looking for, but if police would primarily obtain the material from journalists then journalism would lose its purpose. On the other hand - the undercover police among the demonstrators must have had enough of their people with cameras, so that they could have enough photos from their men, and besides - why they don't use journalistic writings on crime and corruption, which have quite enough evidence to launch a decent investigation against individuals in government, the same way they now look for images and pictures to discover the culprit for demonstrations?

And while the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina are becoming a symbol of protests around the world, are we simultaneously witnessing the case of severely broken media freedom?

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