International Information Centre for Balkan Studies

Int'l peace envoy's office slams proposed changes to Criminal Code in RS entity

March 6, 2023

Proposed changes to the Criminal Code of Republika Srpska, one of Bosnia's two semi-autonomous entities, warrant additional public debate and consideration, the Office of the High Representative (OHR) said on Monday, warning that, if adopted, the law provisions introducing the criminalization of defamation would mean a “clear disregard of the democratic principles.”

The reaction comes days after the law was presented by RS Government, sparking strong reaction of some international institutions in the country as well as the opposition political parties in Republika Srpska.

“As a strong advocate of the freedom of speech and the freedom of the media, that are essential to any democracy, the OHR reiterates that political and institutional leaders have a responsibility to foster an atmosphere conducive to independent and professional work of the media without fear and political pressure. Every society is and will always be measured against the status of the freedom of speech and the environment in which the media are working in,” said the OHR, the institution overseeing the peace process in Bosnia and Herzegovina following the 1992-95 conflict.

Although countering disinformation and hate speech is worthy effort, the reintroducion of criminalization of defamation and insult should be “carefully weighed against the risk of hampering dissent and democratic debate,” the international peace envoy's office stressed.

“Combating disinformation and hate-speech must not serve as a pretext for undue restriction of the freedom of opinion or expression; nor should it prevent critical debate or further limit the functioning of media and the civil sector that are important in any democratic society,” it added.

If provisions, as announced, are to be adopted, it would be a clear disregard of the democratic principles that every society needs to adhere to, the OHR stressed, and called on the entity authorities in Republika Sroska to engage in a “constructive and transparent public debate with all interested stakeholders included in this process and to resolve this issue without endangering the democratic capacity of the society.”

The announced law provisions previously sparked the reaction of the US Embassy, the EU Delegation and the OSCE offices in Sarajevo, who condemned the move.

Source:  https://n1info.ba/english/news/intl-peace-envoys-office-slams-proposed-changes-to-criminal-code-in-rs-entity/ 

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