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New law devastating for free expression and free media on the Internet in Republika Srpska, BiH

VIENNA, 5. 02. 2015 – OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatović today denounced a new law adopted in Republika Srpska, Bosnia and Herzegovina, which criminalizes social media postings that disrupt social order, despite her earlier warnings against it.

“I am disappointed that so many local and international voices of concern were simply ignored – this new law paves way for legal restrictions to online free expression and free media,” Mijatović said. “By including social media in the law, there is a danger that officials could interpret ill-defined terms to sanction and limit the free flow of information and free expression online.”

In a letter on 27 January to Nedeljko Čubrilović, Speaker of the Republika Srpska National Assembly, Mijatović called on the members of the Assembly not to pass the law before considering amendments ensuring there will be no damaging implications for free expression and free media. She offered to assist the authorities to conduct a legal analysis of the law and issue recommendations.

The law on Public Peace and Order was approved during today’s session of the National Assembly of Republika Srpska. The law’s articles 7 and 8 criminalize social media postings that disturb the public order, display symbols, images, drawings or texts containing indecent, offensive or disturbing content or insult or engage in rude or insolent behaviour.

“These provisions can create self-censorship among social media users in order to stop criticism and differing views, which is not applicable in a democratic society,” Mijatović said. “Only in cases of direct incitement to violence are legal sanctions justified. Freedom of expression online should be left to self-regulatory bodies to deal with.”

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