Lawmakers in Bosnia’s autonomous Serb Republic are to consider whether social media posts that are deemed offensive should be punished with fines or prison terms, alarming media watchdogs.
The move follows uproar among journalists over a December raid led by Bosnian Serb police on the Sarajevo offices of an independent web portal, Klix, after it published an audio recording that it said contained the voice of Serb Republic Prime Minister Zeljka Cvijanovic discussing buying MPs in the regional parliament. Cvijanovic said the tape was fabricated.
Critics say much of the electronic and print media in the Serb Republic are already under the control of the ruling SNSD party of Bosnian Serb president Milorad Dodik, who has sought to cultivate close ties with Russia.
The regional parliament’s Committee on European Integration agreed on Monday that the government’s proposed amendments to the law on public order and peace, which extends the definition of public space to social media, can be debated.
Opposition lawmakers have threatened to leave the session, scheduled for Tuesday.
Under the proposed amendments, anyone who posts symbols, images, texts or music videos on social media that are deemed to disturb public order can be fined up to 300 Bosnian marka ($175). Those deemed to offend or threaten other people face fines of up to 800 marka or a 30-day prison term.
(Writing by Daria Sito-Sucic; Editing by Matt Robinson/Ruth Pitchford)