”Mediacentar” (Media Centre) Sarajevo presented the publication Regulation of harmful content on the Internet in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH): Between freedom of speech and damage to democracy. It has been said that the amount of harmful online content in our country is worrying. Therefore, possible solutions were offered and supported by The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the European Union (EU), Federalna writes.
The trend of internet abuse in BiH is not stopping. Hate speech, denial of war crimes, glorification of war criminals, ethnonational media reporting, disinformation, and discrediting campaigns of individuals are the most harmful contents in our country and require more adequate processing.
”Entity laws can be used to sanction fake news, but they do not define what fake news is, and then they can be abused in a way to sanction dissidents and the like. We have seen how the Election Law prohibits hate speech of political candidates – that definition is not precise enough and then it can be used again to restrict free political speech,” says Anida Sokol, a researcher at Mediacentar.
All these shortcomings also affect the democratic processes in BiH. Therefore, the authors of the study, taking into account the sensitive political situation in the country, the problematic legacy of the war, and the presence of divisive ethnonationalism rhetoric, offered solutions. But, they point out, that there is no one actor who would solve all the problems. It is necessary to join forces of competent institutions, regulators, media, and civil society.
”There are several steps BiH can take immediately. In this sense, first of all, to harmonize its laws and regulations regarding hate speech with international standards and, further, to introduce it as a criminal offense – the act of spreading racism and xenophobia, ie hate through the Internet,” Jurgis Vilcinskas pointed out, Acting Deputy Head of the EU Delegation to BiH.
There seems to be a lot of work ahead of our country. Working to increase society’s resilience to harmful content by developing media literacy and, ultimately, introducing laws in line with international standards, such as the law on digital services, would certainly change the BiH reality. However, the authors of the study point out that it is primarily necessary to act preventively and strengthen the education of all citizens.