Bosnia and Herzegovina: migrants, disinformation and media literacy 

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Autor: Elma Tahmaz 

In the atmosphere of never-ending hatred and constant tension in a post conflict country such as Bosnia and Herzegovina, the last thing we need as a society is to name a portal “Antimigrant.ba”. Especially having in mind that our own citizens were refugees during the 1992-95 war, and that we are currently facing economic migration of our own citizens. 

While most of the public was convinced that one of the owners and writer of the portal Antimigrant.ba (Fatmir Alispahić) would be found guilty of inciting national, racial, and religious hatred, discord, or hostility (Art. 145a CCBiH), the Court of BiH in the first instance, decided otherwise. Namely, on November 19, 2021, the portal owner was freed of all charges.

About the portal: as an average reader, I found that the portal shares a vast amount of unverified information, made up statistics that are not backed up by a relevant source, and pictures one cannot be sure when, where and by whom they were taken. To make things even worse, reading trough the website, it is quite obvious that the portal owner is not aware of the fact that migrants and refugees are not synonyms. 

Having this said, it is also clear that the portal owner is not aware that a migrant or a refuge is allowed to wear a clean and “expensive” jacket while moving from country to country and that this will not whatsoever influence his basic human rights. Based on his shallow understanding of migrants and refugees, a lawyer, doctor or any other financially stable person could not flee his country as a refugee, or free willingly choose to move for other reasons as a migrant. To conclude, if one would research the topic “spreading disinformation caused by the lack of knowledge” Antimigrant.ba would be the perfect place to start with.

One positive note is that the Association of BiH journalists publicly expressed their disappointment with the outcome of the first instance process lead before the Court of BiH. As expected, the portal owner fought back with claims such as that the Association of BiH journalist did something “…no professional would dare - to deny the State court and its judgments”. He also referred to Art. 10 of the Code for the press and online media which says that journalist have the obligation not make premature judgments about the guilt of an accused person. 

At the same time, the portal owner seems to forget that this judgment is not final and binding, so basically, according to his own claims, the portal owner should as well refer from commenting and not make premature judgments about his guilt. It is important to add that there is a huge difference when the court frees someone because the prosecution was not able to prove his guilt or because there was not enough evidence found and freeing someone because he was actually found innocent based on enough presented evidence. 

It is to be seen what the Appeals chamber will decide and how the balance between freedom of speech and freedom of opinion will be achieved in this case. Until then, the public will be “stuck” in the state of shock and denial questioning their own media literacy.