The Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, Dunja Mijatović, today called for the withdrawal of the Draft Amendments to the Criminal Code in the BiH entity Republika Srpska, which recriminalizes defamation.
As Mijatović reminded in response to FENA’s inquiry, Bosnia and Herzegovina decriminalized defamation in 2003, and the changes proposed by the entity government would nullify a milestone in the progress of freedom of expression and worsen the already worrying situation of repression against voices of opposing opinion.
“Lawsuits of misuse, such as SLAPPs, against journalists and human rights defenders are already limiting the space for civic participation. Re-criminalization of defamation would only strengthen the trend of stifling freedom of expression,” said Mijatović.
She noted that the protection of reputation and privacy are important goals, but they must not be achieved at the expense of other fundamental human rights, such as freedom of expression, which is why legislators should support this principle and ensure that defamation is dealt with only through proportionate civil sanctions.
“This is both a human rights obligation and an important step in maintaining the democratic fabric of society and free public debate,” the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatović emphasized in a statement for FENA.