BiH regulatory institutions brought under government control
Late last year, the BiH Parliament ruled that the Communication's Regulatory Agency - CRA, along with several other regulatory institutions, are to be categorised as administrative units. The decision, still standing, represents a threat to independence of regulatory agencies in BiH, since their classification as administrative units places them under the control of various ministries and the BiH Government.
Monday, 17 May 2010, by HRH Sarajevo / Lejla Mazlic
Communication's Regulatory Agency of Bosnia and Herzegovina - CRA, is the sole regulator of communications at the BiH state level. CRA authority includes all aspects of regulation of communications in BiH.
Dunja Mijatovic, left, recently appointed as OSCE's representative on freedom of the media in Vienna, comments political pressures on CRA in BiH (whose director of the Sector for Broadcasting she was), and talks about the lack of involvement of the Press Council of BiH in media issues in this country.
- Is the CRA losing its independence ?
"According to my knowledge’’, says Dunja Mijatovic, ‘’the Commissions of both Houses of the BiH Parliament, and all competent authorities, have already done much work to change this decision of placing CRA, along with other regulatory authorities, in administrative units. The latest information indicate that CRA should be exempt from this legislation, and that this error will be corrected. That is, I hope we can call it ‘’an error’’, since there has been several attempts so far to put CRA under the government’s control, so it's very hard to believe that an ordinary error happened here’’.
However, Mrs. Mijatovic emphasizes that independence does not mean being just formally out of the system or out of the state institutions, as media and public likes to stress it the most, but it means having the real independence in decision making processes, which are in compliance with the state’s laws only, and so far, according to her, CRA did have this type of independence in BiH.
‘’We have been of course, under all kinds of pressures, political, public… and it is never easy to work under such pressures, but I know that we, who have worked on certain decisions in CRA, made those decisions in accordance to the laws and procedures in BiH, and not in accordance to any kind of ‘’instructions’’ we got. I categorically and responsibly reject any insinuation that such things ever happened in CRA’’, said Mrs. Mijatovic.
- CRA’s Council without the president
However, CRA is facing very difficult situation this year in BiH, which is also an election year, and with all political pressures that it is exposed to, the Council of the Agency whose mandate has expired, still did not appoint its new director. This of course affects the work of CRA, and problem could be solved, according to Mrs. Mijatovic, in 24 hours, if only political will existed.
‘’This is neither the first nor the last challenge and thrown glove into the face of CRA, nor it is the first time that the Agency is in a difficult period. Since its foundation there was a great struggle and people in CRA are used to this kind of pressure. This is not an easy job because you're under constant pressure. What is good is that you are also under constant control of the public. As far as the Agency is concerned, it did the best it could regarding the fulfillment of its obligations. I cannot say why the status of CRA Council is still not solved, except that there are certain political issues. So many times before, the international community, the European Union, EU Commissioner in charge of information society for the regulation, the High Representative, and others, continuously warned that it is unacceptable to treat the institution as CRA is, in such a way. Still, nothing is happening.’’, said Mijatovic.
- ‘’Press Council of BiH should be more robust’’
Having in mind overall political and media situation in BiH, Mijatovic reckons that Press Council should be more decisive and more engaged in BiH media happenings, and that she will use the features of her new position in these coming months, to meet with everybody involved in media regulation, self-regulation, journalistic associations, and the editors in BiH, to try to find a way to improve the situation and fix it.
‘’Press Council of BiH should be fully active, and much more robust, simply because it is the self-regulator and because it is in no position of imposing sanctions. Thus, their power is much more sophisticated than the CRA’s, which has the mandate, power penalty, frequency, etc. This is all about profession, about ethics, about court of honor. It is in fact, about defending the postulates of free and professional journalism’’, concludes Mijatovic.
- Mijatovic’s background
Mijatovic is an expert in media law and regulation. In 1998, as one of the founders of the Communications Regulatory Agency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, she helped to create a legal, regulatory and policy framework for the media in a complex post-war society. She was also involved in setting up a self-regulatory Press Council and the first Free Media Helpline in South East Europe.
Since 2007 she has been Chairperson of the European Platform of Regulatory Authorities - EPRA. She was the first non-EU Member State representative and the first woman to hold this post. Previously, she chaired the Council of Europe's Group of Specialists on freedom of expression and information in times of crisis. During her Chairmanship, CoE Committee of Ministers adopted the Declaration by the Committee of Ministers on the protection and promotion of investigative journalism and Guidelines on protecting freedom of expression and information in times of crisis. As an expert on media and communications legislation, she has worked in Armenia, Jordan, Serbia, Montenegro, Slovenia, the United Kingdom, Austria, Morocco and Iraq.
HRH Sarajevo / Lejla Mazlic
Based on DANI and OSCE information