Symposium for Prosecutors in Bosnia and Herzegovina

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17 October 2011 Participants of a symposium for prosecutors in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which was held from October 11 to 13 this year, discussed the “transparency of judiciary and responsibility of the media” and concluded that both parties had to cooperate with each other more in order for the public to get timely information.

Representatives of the media, prosecutions and human rights organizations discussed the “transparency of judiciary and responsibility of the media” during a panel discussion.

“When dealing with prosecutors’ offices, Bosnian journalists often cannot obtain the information they need, because those institutions do not have spokespersons or expert associates with whom they could interact,” said Erna Mackic, journalist with BIRN – Justice Report.

Tihomir Jurko, Deputy Chief Prosecutor with the Prosecution of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, FBiH, said that, recruiting spokespersons had proved to be a good thing in the past, adding that prosecutors’ offices should appoint staff members, whose task would be to interact with the media.

“The media should get timely information that will not have detrimental effect on investigations conducted by prosecutors’ offices,” Jurko said.

Zekerijah Smajic, longtime journalist, expert in the European Union issues and representative of SENS Agency, discussed the responsibility of journalists and their activities related to reporting from judicial institutions.

“It is not a journalist’s role to misuse information. We must take the ethics into account,” Smajic said.

Earlier this year BIRN Office in Bosnia and Herzegovina, with support from USAID, established cooperation with the Association of Prosecutors of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina with the aim of putting focus on transparency of judiciary and responsible reporting by the media. These activities are aimed at improving the cooperation between the media and judicial institutions by sharing knowledge and experience at a series of lectures, workshops and discussions and having judicial institutions open themselves towards the public and journalists realize what their responsibilities are.

“What we can see in Bosnia and Herzegovina is the media spreading the language of hatred and investing exceptional efforts into causing negative impact on and destructing war crimes trials before domestic judicial bodies by publishing distorted articles based on their comments. Also, the Hague Tribunal issue is exclusively related to a negative sensationalism,” said Anisa Suceska-Vekic, Director of BIRN BiH.

Suceska-Vekic maintained that journalists had the power to destroy or create, adding that this had been proved by verdicts passed down before international courts.

At this year’s symposium Sasa Madacki, Director of the Center for Human Rights of the Sarajevo University, spoke about the verdicts passed down by the European Court for Human Rights.

“It is true that the media have contributed to the degradation of the importance of war crimes processing in the common citizens’ perception, but we still believe that objective reporting on war crimes trials can help overcome the collective responsibility stigma and help the future generations in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the region avoid being victims of a factual and imposed ignorance,” said Suceska-Vekic.

During the symposium BIRN BiH screened a ten-minute documentary about the significance of transparency of judiciary and responsibility of the media.

Other topics that were discussed at this symposium for prosecutors included: detection and processing of human trafficking, criminal aspects of proving bribery, taking over of verdicts passed down by foreign courts, extraditions with particular emphasis on temporary extradition and cooperation with the Prosecutor’s Office of the Hague Tribunal.

The symposium was organized by the Association of Prosecutors of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina in collaboration with centers for education of judges and prosecutors of FBiH and Republika Srpska with support from OSCE in Bosnia and Herzegovina, USAID in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Government of FBiH.