Honouring Free Speech – Openness for a More Equal and Fair Society

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Goran Miletic, from Civil Rights Defenders and Anders Hagelberg from the Swedish Embassy opening this historic event.

In a shrinking democratic world, free speech and access to information is now more important than ever. Civil Rights Defenders and the Swedish Embassy in Bosnia and Herzegovina arranged a panel discussion to highlight the challenges that persist in the Balkans regarding freedom of the press and discussed the Swedish Freedom of the Press Act –  the world’s first law dedicated to supporting freedom of information and freedom of the press.

Civil Rights Defenders is witnessing a harsh media climate in several countries we work in throughout the region. In Bosnia and Herzegovina threats and harassments of journalists is increasing. Several journalists have fallen foul of the authorities for criticising the government which has led to arrests and harassment.

“Freedom of expression is not only important for its own sake and for democratic development, it is also at the root of all other human rights”, said Goran Miletić, Programme Director for the Western Balkans at Civil Rights Defenders

The exhibition and round table discussion took place at the Media Centre in Sarajevo on December 01 with opening remarks from Goran Miletic, Programme Director for the Western Balkans at Civil Rights Defenders and Anders Hagelberg from the Swedish Embassy.

“Information is a very useful tool for change. An open society with access to information and free speech has a potential for change, it gives people a chance to scrutinise those in power – this development can move things towards a more equal and fair society”, said Ambassador Anders Hagelberg from the Swedish Embassy.

The round table discussion brought together Journalist and Freedom of Information specialist Mr Staffan Dahllöf from Sweden and prominent members from various media circles in Bosnia and Herzegovina to discuss freedom of expression and the right to access public documents. This was also discussed in a Swedish context and how similar practices that put Sweden at the forefront of freedom of speech can be applied in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The speakers from Bosnia and Herzegovina included Freedom of Information expert Mr Mehmed Halilović, Investigative Reporter Ms Selma Učanbarlić from the Center for Investigative Reporting, Journalist, Ms Vildana Selimbegović from Oslobođenje and Mr Dragan Ćuzulan, Public Administration Reform Coordinator.

Bosnia and Herzegovina faces particular challenges to freedom of information in light of the country’s past and present. The future for the country when it comes to freedom in the media was discussed followed by an exhibition also held at the Media Centre that showcased the origins for the Freedom of the Press Act and the innovations, events and people that have shaped freedom of expression in Sweden from the late 15th century until today.

See Ena Bavčić Programme Officer for Civil Rights Defenders in Bosnia Herzegovina on prime time TV, BHTV1 talking about the event. (In Bosnian)

For more information please contact: Ena Bavčić (English and Bosnian), Programme Officer for Civil Rights Defenders in Bosnia and Herzegovina on +387 66 82 89 88 or at sarajevo.office@crd.org.

Categories: News.
Tags: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Freedom of Speech, and Western Balkans.
Regions: Western Balkans.