At the signing ceremony, numerous representatives of civil society organizations, journalist associations and activists, including Denis Dzidic, director of the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network in Bosnia and Herzegovina, BIRN BiH, signed a memorandum of understanding and accession to the Coalition, which is part of UNESCO’s project Social Media 4 Peace.
Sinisa Sesum, head of UNESCO’s Office in Bosnia and Herzegovina, said that the Coalition’s primary focus was to create a free and healthy online environment for all citizens of Bosnia as well as to promote peace through digital technologies, especially social media.
“The Social Media 4 Peace project is a concrete step in strengthening the global partnership between the European Union and UNESCO to strengthen resilience of societies to potentially harmful content that spreads online, especially hate speech that incites violence and division,” said Sesum.
The head of the Delegation of the European Union to Bosnia and Herzegovina and the EU special representative in Bosnia, Johann Sattler, said that unverified information and hate speech “are eroding our democracies and often pose a major threat to the enjoyment of human rights and reconciliation”.
As he said, freedom of expression and media freedom are fundamental pillars of democratic societies, essential for the protection of human rights and the promotion of good governance. These are also the key areas Bosnia needs to work on, on its EU path.
“Freedom of expression should not mean freedom to spread false information that can harm other people’s rights and that is misused to incite hatred, intolerance or violence,” said Sattler, adding that he was glad that the EU supported the Coalition and that civil society organizations were working on it.
Stela Vasic, advisor at the country’s Ministry of Transport and Communications, said hate speech and incitement to physical violence were unacceptable, adding that a law on e-content that would also deal with these issues was in preparation.
Similar coalitions have been formed in other countries where the Social Media for Peace project is being implemented, such as Indonesia, Kenya and Colombia. The project is implemented with the support of the European Union.