A new report from the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) has revealed that the incidence of hate speech, discrimination and digital violations has only risen on digital platforms in Bosnia. In fact, the trend has only worsened in the wake of a new decree by the President of the Serb-led entity Republika Srpska.
Out of a total 101 cases between 1 August 2020 and 31 August 2021, hate speech and discrimination were the most widespread form of violation, making up 45 of the total.
In the second half of October, two hate speech incidents were recorded by researchers. The first referred to the release of a video on Twitter on 22 October from the online news outlet Istraga, depicting Dragan Lukač, RS Minister of Interior, with special forces conducting exercises in Jahorina. The video attracted a range of comments inciting ethnic hatred and war propaganda.
The second case involved a Muslim cleric in Sarajevo, Muhamed Velic, who made a post on Facebook calling for war. The post was published on 16 October, and read “Ammunition in Konjic and Gorazde! Howitzers in Travnik! RPGs in Hadžići! Etc. Trust yourself and your hooves! They know that this is not a joke and that Bosnian might is not a small cat!” Though it was later removed, the post forced the Foreign Ministry to get involved and seek clarifications from Velic.
In the same month, Republika Srpska president Zeljka Cvijanovic decreed that the Serb-dominated entity would not enforce a law imposed by the High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina criminalising the public denial or justification of genocide and crimes against humanity.
Bosnian Serb leaders reject classifications of the 1995 Srebrenica massacres by Bosnian Serb military forces as genocide, in spite of rulings by both domestic and international courts affirming the events as such. Bosnian Serb political representatives have already boycotted Bosnian state institutions over the new law from the High Representative.
Cvijanovic’s decree says that the Republika Srpska authorities will not cooperate with Bosnia and Herzegovina’s institutions to implement the law, sparking serious concerns about how state prosecutors may be able to proceed in a genocide denial case.
“This is going in a dangerous direction,” warned Miodrag Stojanovic, a lawyer from Bijeljina in Republika Srpska.
In July this year, the European Union launched a pilot social media project in Bosnia and Herzegovina to combat misinformation and hate speech online.